Pretty: Stories by Greg Kearney
Trade Paperback, 152 pages
Trade Paperback, 152 pages
SynopsisIn this collection of eleven short stories, Kearney unleashes a diverse cast of unforgettable characters. One story features a Christian housewife who rebels against the hard life she has with a rigid husband and four disabled children by seeking out a lover. A gay couple invite over their mothers, one of whom is fresh out of jail, and reveal a gaping difference between them. A blog, read backwards, exposes a life complicated by addictions, cancer, and a failure in social understandings.
Reason for ReadingI saw a enthusiastic Tweet about Pretty; I'm just sad I can't remember the source so I can go back for more recommendations.
Why you should read this bookI avoided most short stories for years after some bad high school reads, and now the amazing collection of stories in Pretty have made me see the error of my ways. Some of the stories are shocking, some are subtle, and some are more of a slow burn than an explosion, but each one is strong at revealing its central character. I was torn between wanting to jump into the next story and sit and absorb each one fully (I jumped; I am terrible at resisting temptation). In a dozen pages and one principal event, Kearney can reveal an entire life. Painful truths are handled with grace and humour. Above all else, the stories entertain - they're almost like HBO in book form. They're dark, subversive, and edgy; and they'll make you marvel at the places that Canadian fiction is going.
Why you should avoid this bookPretty isn't for the reader seeking more traditional/conservative short stories.
Opening ParagraphIt was almost midnight, and none of them had really had a proper dinner yet. So, right after her husband came in the cleaning woman's eye, Denise wrapped herself in a bathrobe, double-knotted the belt, and went into the kitchen. She cut up some dill pickles. Then she made a mound of sandwiches from the previous night's roast beef.
Ekaterine pulled me into the staff room. She said that the only reason why she wasn't going to fire me was because her sister had been an alcoholic, and she was the sweetest person in the world before she passed out drunk with a lit cigarette and burned to death. So Ekaterina gave me a last chance.
'Do you want to fall asleep and burn to death and look like steak with hair?' she said.
'Please don't get me fired. This job is actually kind of important to me.'
'Ooh, reach for the stars, honey. Slackers unite! Don't you worry. I've got your back.'
Lyle liked Marnie. Her dark, close-set eyes made her look perpetually caught in deep thought. She was exactly Lyle's age: 35. He wondered what it was she would rather be doing with her life. He didn't want to scare her away by admitting that he could not think of anything he'd rather be doing with his life.