March 17, 2010

STORIES BEFORE THE STORM

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:37 am by The Lyon

ANIMAL IS HARD TO FORGET

BY KSENIA GUELETINA

This month’s book is a new collection of short stories by Alexan-dra Leggat. Leggat is a freelance writer and editor, as well as a creative writing teacher at the University of Toronto‘s School of Continuing Studies. She has published two other short story col-lections as well as a volume of poetry. The collection in question is entitled Animal and for once, the blurb at the back summarizes the book’s appeal succinctly and accurately. The phrase that struck me most was ―palpable tension‖, as this perfectly describes the thread weaving together all these stories. We meet a woman reconciling the loss of a lover and her own aging. We hear a seemingly innocuous conversation over dinner. We watch a re-tired actress re-learning what’s important. Leggat paints extraordinarily vivid pictures of these characters, snapshots in time. Her descriptions are always just enough, never cloying the reader with too many details. The characters in her stories don’t necessarily get easy answers and some of them don’t get answers at all. Whether it’s an office worker looking for the cour-age to change, or a life coach who dreams of playing football, the most important thing is that these are stories about people who are standing on a precipice and Leggat doesn’t always reveal whether or not they win their fight with gravity. As a reader, I enjoyed this book immensely. It is starkly and incredibly well-written. It is effortless afterward to close your eyes and see the scenes that she lays out, to feel the tension like the quiet, ominous feeling in the air right before a thunderstorm washes it clean. It’s an easy book to become immersed in and it is a difficult book to stop thinking about.

The stories are about a wealth of subjects, and though the question of chil-dren and of growing old is a recurrent theme, Leggat mostly writes about the changes that come with those situations; the physical changes and the changes that you sustain as a person. These are not easy subjects and the way she handles them is admirable. She doesn’t preach, which is something that crops up distress-ingly often when reading about these topics. She is writing about people and about the choices that they are faced with, and she is definitely worth reading.

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