Author: Kathy Page
Publication Date: June 2014
Synopsis from Goodreads:
The rubble of an ancient civilization. A village in a valley from which no one comes or goes. A forest of mother-trees, whispering to each other through their roots; a lakeside lighthouse where a girl slips into human skin as lightly as an otter into water; a desert settlement where there was no conflict, before she came; or the town of Wantwick, ruled by a soothsayer, where tourists lose everything they have. These are the places where things begin.
I’ve said it before that I am not a fan of short stories, but Kathy Page has made me love short stories with this wonderful, visceral, and sometimes disturbing collection. I’ve highlighted more passages and dogeared more pages in this book than in anything I’ve read since graduating from university. I discovered this book through Quill & Quire‘s Cover to Cover feature the development of the cover of this unique set. The stories are surreal and strange, with a strong undercurrent of human emotion coursing through it and the cover captures this feeling so completely. The writing is elegant, reflected in the careful typeface, but often fills you with disbelief, much like the cover image. The book, as a whole, is a work of art.
I was shocked by the story We, the Trees. A young man takes a course with a teacher known for her open-mindedness, however he never shows up to class. He promises a final project unlike anything she’s ever seen. With his perpetual absence, she’s pushed to fail him, but holds off in anticipation of the anticipated final assignment. I won’t reveal to you how the story ends, but it’s brutally shocking and disturbing, but moving and utterly powerful. The conclusion took my breath away. I found many of the stories in this book had this effect.
I want to share a passage with you from one of my favourite stories, Of Paradise: “she was just a little different, not enough to make her completely other. We had recognized her as human from the start. Differentness was not the point, some said. It led both ways. Rather, the issue was that she had come from elsewhere and so we did not know her story or her intention” (31). This observation for me was the perfect description of what it is to be human, to recognize that others are similar to us, but there is always this sense of “otherness” that we struggle with because we do not understand where others come from or the stories they are living. In the same sense, we can always relate because the human experience is always the same; we all feel happiness, sadness, anger, elation. It’s beautiful.
Short story lovers, this one’s for you. I promise you’ll enjoy it!