This was a fine collection of short stories. And I mean that in a complimentary manner. This short story collection had languished on my TBR for years and so when I needed something quick and sweet to mix up my reading, I requested it from the library and it hit just the spot I needed. Although I don’t know Julie Paul, I heard her collection recommend from writers I know in Victoria, where Paul lives. Many of the stories are set around Victoria which made for fun reading since I was able to easily picture the city I lived in for many years. Several of the stories also revolve around parenthood in some way which also made them relatable for me, even as the stories’ parents found themselves in situations unfamiliar to me. (And often to themselves.)
The collection starts strong with “Black Forest”, about a father whose marriage is probably ending. His wife has taken off, leaving him to solo parent their neurodivergent child. Lawrence is overwhelmed and exhausted by parenting and the self-sacrifice that it requires. I think that’s a feeling any parent will be able to recognize and Paul treats Lawrence with great sympathy so that he is never judged.
“Weeping Camperdown” is almost a cautionary tale, hilarious and creepy, of a single father venturing back into the world of dating with a woman who initially finds a terrific connection with. “Tropical Dreams” shows two relationships on the brink of chaos. Two couples vacation together with potentially disastrous results.
But the story that stuck with me most was “Her Full Name Was Beatrice” and if you read it, I think you’ll see why instantly. It is stylistically different, a powerful and dark story that omits the humour found in most of Paul’s other stories. While some of the other stories here have blurred in my mind in the days since I finished the book, “Beatrice” is crystal clear and still heart-breaking.