With intelligence and a calm, reflective voice, Taylor’s debut collection of nine stories covers a variety of lives and perspectives.
The first section here, called “Travel Light,” contains five tales that describe episodes from the narrator’s life and link loosely to form a story of growth and acceptance. They are told in the first person by Kit, who introduces readers to the struggles he’s faced throughout his life as he searches to find meaning in existence. In “Picasso’s Face,” Kit alternates descriptions of a kid named Adam, whom he knew in high school, and of a more recent situation with an old friend named Richard, a man who, after finally finding what he wants in life, is diagnosed with a terminal illness; as the end comes near, he wants Kit’s help. Seemingly unconnected at first, the stories combine teenage philosophical discussions on art with the difficulties faced by mature men as they search for purpose in life and struggle with violence and the nature of war. Kit’s stories—frequently interrupted by reflections on other, barely connected ideas or incidences—recall his life in episodes: a high school English classroom; a summer job on a diamond drilling team; his relationship with ex-girlfriend Julia at a university; his friendship with much older Wendy, a California Buddhist cancer survivor; and ultimately, his present life as a practicing psychologist in Ottawa. Despite having little action and conveying little sense of urgency, the deeply intelligent but not oppressive narrative will keep readers interested with its fierce, realistic characters. The issues that Kit, Wendy and others wrestle to define and eventually confront are helped along by Taylor’s casually literary voice, which is more than enough to compel readers to invest themselves. The other stories in the collection follow other characters but have a similar focus on art, philosophy and human nature. Like the stories before, they may not wrap up neatly, but neither do the lives they map.
Meditative and moving short fiction.