"Danger: High Voltage" warns one reviewer when analyzing Julie Paul's new short story collection. Indeed, Paul edits her stories down to the grit; she wastes time with neither lyricism nor pleasantries and compels the reader to make deep connections with her characters by adopting a business-like tone that gets straight to the heart of the matter.
One story tells of the recently-separated father of an eleven-year-old who must balance the burden of parenting alone against the possibility of losing his daughter to his ex’s custody. Another describes the daily grind of a man unable to work following a traumatic accident. A chilling tale at the end of the collection recounts the death of a child in a backwards timeline.
The pointed conversations and character-driven observations of "The Pull of the Moon" may suggest foregone conclusions. But, in fact, the solutions to the characters' problems often remain out of reach to them while becoming more apparent to the reader. In "Squirrel People," for example, a husband in a failing marriage assumes something external can glue his family life back together and thus adopts a pet. His wife's negative reaction is blurred when Paul's voice takes over to summarize its outcome, a move that both reinforces disconnection between the characters and confirms what the audience knew all along.
Although Paul occasionally misses opportunities to adequately delve into her protagonists’ messy lives (as when a man translates grief over his recently-deceased wife into the death of a cat), her voice remains strong and satisfyingly weaves together obvious and deeply buried themes.
As is often the case with a collection of short stories, some drew me in and some did nothing for me. The writing is good, in my opinion, but the subject matter didn't always interest me. It was nice to read stories set in Canada and even in some neighbourhoods I personally know
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