I received an Advance e-copy of this book thanks to McClelland & Stewart and NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
The stories in this new collection by Alexander MacLeod share a sort of unsettling quality. Moments in people’s lives when things are not as they should be. Sometimes this shows up in something as obvious as the sudden death of a young woman. Or it is the moment, years later, when a character learns that the friendly neighbour at the motel turned out to be a murderer. While the characters vary broadly, many of the stories are narrated in first person and many seem to share a sense of displacement. A young man who has grown up in Ontario, only an occasional visitor to his close-knit extended family in Nova Scotia. A family in the middle of a cross-country move. A young mother who, when she visits her partner’s small hometown, still has to deal with the questions of “Who might you be related to?”
MacLeod is, of course, the son of Alistair MacLeod, and the Maritimes are heavily featured as locale in this collection but in a more subtle way than I often find with other East Coast-based stories. (As a West Coast Canadian, I have found some Nova Scotia writers rather heavyhanded.) With great subtlety, MacLeod seems to be exploring the new generation of Nova Scotians. The ones who have moved there later in life and the ones who have left. The ones with deep roots that they cannot escape, even as they do not understand all of their own family history. This is perhaps what gives the stories their somewhat unsettling quality; these are unsettled people.
MacLeod’s voice and setting is strong and engaging. I found myself more and more immersed in the stories as they progressed until, by the last page, I wanted to keep turning pages, finding new stories to read.