Thursday, April 24, 2014

Staff Pick - Someone Somewhere by Dana Mills

This fine collection of short stories, Someone
Somewhere by Dana Mills, begins with a punch with his Journey Prize nominated story Steaming for Godthab. His stories of working class life are blunt and spare, and yet convey intense and raw emotion. Having spent months aboard a fishing trawler, the men are "broke up" both mentally and physically. Their release is a stop over in Greenland where there are liquor and girls, and not in a healthy combination. It's a difficult story to read because of its harshness, but as with so many of Mills' stories, there is a vulnerability and a softness. The isolation, the sea, the relentless hard work causes the men to behave aggressively and irrationally with each other and with the Inuit girls they find in Greenland. Mills' stories are all in some way about men and their relationships and in Steaming for Godthab a trawlerman breaks with his harsh worklife and finds tenderness with an anonymous local girls.

His stories tend to be rough yet tempered by sweet details, like the boy who wishes to dress nicely to attract a girl who knows how to keep a relationship tight. Perhaps my favourite story is 25000 Easy Steps. A boy brings home his girl Treasure to meet Matt his brother who has some unnamed developmental difficulty. The family has grown around him coping as best they can with some casualities - depression, withdrawal, anti-social behaviour. In comes Treasure with her freshness and energy - the boy is so proud of his "track and field girl" - and gives them renewed ability to cope with Matt and gives the boy a place where he fits in. Perhaps not the most powerful story in the collection, but certainly a touching one.

Lee Stringer's Watching the Road is
another collection of Atlantic Canadian stories which explore the lives of blue collar workers, this time in rural Newfoundland. "In this impressive collection of fourteen short stories, the poor and blue-collar characters dig only at the surface of their conflicts. That is until they stumble upon a defining moment that heightens their self-awareness, and for better or worse causes them to re-examine who they are. In the end, they can only live with the choices they’ve already made and keep watching the road ahead. They inhabit the tiny outport of Bluff Harbour and the larger, neighbouring town of Millbrook, places that which a world that Stringer himself grew up in. It’s just close enough to St. John’s to catch its ripples of modernization as the last generation of traditional fishermen fade away." publisher

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