Whirl Away: Stories – Russell Wangersky (2012, Thomas Allen Publishers, Toronto)
According to the dust jacket, this masterful collection of 12 short stories examines “what happens when people’s personal coping skills go awry.” I’m not sure “awry” is a strong enough descriptor – most of the main characters in these stories are pretty much totally unhinged. From the fairground and hopeless longing that traps a lonely handyman on the Prairies, to the delusions of an elderly lady living by Placentia Bay, the horrifying fantasies of a travelling salesman and the perversions of a man living near a dangerous road, these are sharp slices in the curtain of reality. Wangersky’s work is dark, twisted, more than a little bit frightening (I can’t get the little boy and his violently feuding parents in “Echo” out of my head, and the drunken abuser in “Look Away” leaves a disturbing imprint) – and entertaining as hell. The storycrafting is impeccable and a delight to be savoured.