Thursday, December 20, 2012
Reading Journal: Catch Me When I Fall, by Patricia Westerhof (2011)
For such a slim volume - also a debut - Westerhof packs a lot into these short stories, writing with incredible precision and a tight focus on small events that subtly reveal the larger world within them. The specificity of the setting is interesting in and of itself, one comparable to the Mennonite Manitoba of Miriam Toews or David Bergen, but a world entirely its own: a small Dutch-Canadian Christian community in Central Alberta. In my opinion, the best of the bunch was "God's Laughter," about a couple coming to terms with their adult lesbian daughter's out-of-wedlock pregnancy, and what's particulalry notable about this story is that, though many literary magazines turned it down, in conversation with the author I learned that this is the one readers mention the most. It's not mentionable for just its capital-S, capital-I Social Issues, though; it's great because of (minor spoiler alert) the triumph of love, and the way it comes off so honestly and not schlocky at all. The other winners are "The Whole Field," about trust and the challenges of mothering a frustratingly intelligent teenager, and "Holy Earth," about the tricky relationship between faith, environmentalism and thriftiness. These are stories of ideas but they're told through people, and it's an auspicious beginning. I'm looking forward to her new novel, The Dove in Bathurst Station, in Spring, 2013.