Book Reviews

Lost Enough: A Collection of Short Stories

Lost Enough: A Collection of Short Stories

Anita Dolman

Reviewed on June 19, 2017
** spoiler alert ** A rich cross section of stories that delve into the darker and vulnerable zones of the human soul.

I was looking for an overarching theme, something that short story collections use to provide a framework for the reader, and I couldn’t find any. Instead there were several sub themes, shadings, if you will: postcard stories capturing moments that reveal a lot; same-sex relationships that appear frequently; stories about small town life in Alberta; stories about people who have lost direction and jumped ship, losing everything; older man-younger woman situations that do not blossom; older woman-younger man situations that fizzle. There is only one indigenous story that seems to be drawn from Blackfoot legend. Reading the author’s bio on the back cover I found it hard to relate the stories to her background and place of residence, and yet the collection rings with strong plausibility and human insight, suggesting a diverse life lived, and a fertile imagination.

The stories are well crafted, concise and incisive. An oft used device is to jump ahead of the dramatic event and retrace the path to its occurrence and aftermath. I wished some dramatic scenes had more dialogue rather than been simply narrated in order to move us quickly through; two scenes in particular: Moller and Julie in “Optical Illusion,” and Sam and his abusive father in “Calamity Sam.”

“Happy Enough,” a contradiction of the collection’s title, was my favourite story; a high achieving but paranoid and nosy lawyer moves into a small town with his journalist wife, and gets involved in all aspects of its affairs, only to discover that there have been others before him who have trod similar paths with not such positive results. The animal cruelty in “Terrarium” and “Rabbit” took me aback in the way it was stealthily built up and suddenly sprung on us. “Day One” was a cleverly crafted story of multiple voices intersecting on the day of a hit and run accident, revealing their interconnectedness. The fusing of two time sequences to portray the consequences of a decision in “Momentum” was brilliantly done. And the violent actions and morbid imaginations of the abused and marginalized were brought out dramatically in “Overgrowth” and “Refraction.” However, I thought that the time travel in “Bed & Breakfast’ was a bit much, as was the dying Patrick in “Pacific Standard” siring a baby. I was brought around by the chillingly realistic story “Bottle Rockets,” where the dysfunction caused by drugs, alcohol, spousal abuse, and confused sexuality, prevalent in many of the other stories, is compacted into the family and clients of the protagonist known only as Ms. Reid, a therapist in an addiction centre, leading her to the edge of the precipice, and leaving us to figure out whether she will succumb to those devils herself.

There is a lot of humanity packed into this small book, and when I finished it I realized the significance of the title. The author had succeeded in losing me inside the dark alleyways of human experience. I hadn’t been shown a way out, nor should I expect one, for life is not cut and dried. It was as if she was cheekily asking me, “Well, are you Lost Enough?” I was.
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