Stories about moments of being and losing and loving and living.
Down’s (Our Magic Hour, 2016) first short story collection plumbs the depths of life’s misfortunes: suicide, illness, miscarriage, sexual violence, infidelity, and death. Spanning continents and cultures, the 14 stories center around the domestic and ordinary. Down deftly balances hope and sorrow—a tightrope walk that makes even the banal seem salient. In “Vaseline,” a young girl with potential to burn acclimates to life without her mother and brother in a dead-end town: “I had rage in my veins. If I were a boy I might’ve run around shooting things up.” Told from the blasé perspective of one of the teens, “Dogs” follows a gang of unrepentant teenage boys who brutally terrorize girls; this is an already disturbing story that feels especially devastating in the era of #MeToo. In “Vox Clamantis,” a woman joins her ex-fiance on a road trip to visit his dying mother. In “Eternal Father,” two young women (each with her own emotional trauma) care for each other after a night gone wrong. Where a less capable writer would descend into the saccharine, Down writes about love and friendship with an emotionally resonant sparseness: “We were discovering in each other new shapes and colours, strange prisms of blue that we never knew existed” and “Love was small-town adventure, it was our knees touching beneath tabletops.” Rather than offering answers to life’s big questions, the stories offer glimpses into people tackling them—lending them a (mostly) successful snapshotlike quality. After proving her ability to write with nuance and depth, Down unfortunately ends a few stories too abruptly, which leaves the collection feeling a bit uneven.
A collection pulsing with emotion; a writer crackling with potential.