Australian author Brooks (Mary Lives, 2014) explores the triumphs and sorrows of daily life in this collection of stories.
This collection examines the vagaries of the human condition through a variety of narrative voices. “Togetherness” explores the unrequited love of a college student named Lisa for her closest childhood friend, Gary. A broken arm leads a woman named Jeannie on a voyage of self-discovery in “The Gym.” The strongest stories deal with more challenging subject matter. In the gripping and compelling “Catharsis,” a young woman named Christine attempts to cope with a rape as its aftermath leads her down a dark path of self-destruction. In “Heartbreak,” Brooks creates a poignant portrait of loving parents trying to save their son from his addictions while they raise his children. Brooks adeptly balances the dark tone of these stories with several lighthearted ones that showcase her talent for observing the minutiae of daily life, its joys and troubles. A Cub Scout fundraiser is the focus of breezy “Sausages Sizzling,” while in “United Nations,” a disparate group of tourists on a hiking tour share a common love of travel and adventure. Brooks’ conversational style may give readers the sense of eavesdropping; also her keen sense of whimsy is on full display in the comical “Deserted Island,” which relates the tale of Ian, a fisherman who dozes off while on a trip and wakes up on a deserted island miles from his destination. In this story, nature becomes a second character and Brooks lovingly describes the beauty of Ian’s surroundings: “Looking inland he saw a forest of tall grasses, over two metres tall, with frayed, fluttery fern-like tops.” The collection’s chief weakness is its brevity. Because these stories offer but brief glimpses into the characters’ lives, Brooks can only skim the surface of deeper insight into her characters and their motivations.
Tackles a variety of subjects with curiosity and grace; a bit too short, though.