Sunday, November 25, 2012

Reading Journal: All the Voices Cry, by Alice Petersen (2012)

It's a shame that the two stories I liked the most in this group were second and third from the end - though the stories are perfect subway length for me (about 10-page, 15-minute reads), I found that in most cases what I had on my hand was an account of some event or other but one that didn't pack much punch. The book ought to be divided in halves, too, I think; in the early going, the stories share common characters and a setting - a cottage north from Montreal - but then you're suddenly in New Zealand and the South Pacific, without any real closure on what seemed to be a linked group. I was beginning to somewhat enjoy untangling the character relationships from story to story in the first set - the whole is greater than the sum of its parts - but even the Journey-nominated "After Summer," the collection's first story that I had already read and enjoyed in the prize anthology, seemed lacklustre on second read. Petersen's style may be what I like least, and what complicates the effect of her prose (for me), as she stacks solid sentences one of top another without achieving an intuitive flow. I could put the pieces together on repeated reading, but to me a more enjoyable story is one that brings you along with the voice instead of forcing you to find your own path through. There are, however, some standouts in the group: "Neptune's Necklace," about an old woman, basically a shut-in, who imaginatively replaces her dead children with some young visitors, and "The Land Below," about the change in a father-daughter relationship after mother dies. The group didn't work for me, though.

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