Saturday, January 23, 2010

Review: "In The Wake of Loss: Short Stories" by Sheila James

In The Wake of Loss reflects on the many facets of loss experienced by diasporic South Asians. Ana's Mother is the story of a woman who suspects that her husband is having an affair, but her suspicions become unimportant when her only child goes missing one afternoon. Outside Paradise is the story of an old woman who loses everything that mattered to her in life. In The Wake of Loss follows a woman whose on- again, off-again lover has died. On Ruby's Birthday is the story of a man who has lost his wife and children in his home country, and struggles to build a new life in Canada. On a Mountain on an Island is the story of two women who run a B&B together and who are falling out of love with one another. The Arrangement is the story of a couple in a unique situation who will do anything to have children, and Demure is the story of a mail-order bride who is trying to make her way in a strange new world. Finally, Girlfriends is the story of a woman who has lost her mother and is determined not to lose her father as well.

Eight stories, all very different, but all reflect on loss and how it affects every aspect of our lives. Whether it is the loss of identity, a country, a lover, a parent, a child, a friend, or a dream, Sheila James does a beautiful job of connecting us to her many characters, and of making us experience a sliver of the pain of their loss.

I read on someone's blog that short stories are meant to be savoured, reflected on, and enjoyed one by one, rather than as a group. I vowed to myself that I would read these stories slowly and really think about them before I turned to the next one, so I limited myself to reading two a day. I really feel that this approach helped me to appreciate each story on its own, and it is an approach that I will use when reading short story collections in the future. Sheila James has written eight diverse stories, ones that really drive home the point that when people immigrate to Canada they lose both their home and part of their identity, and must often become someone new in a new country. How fitting this theme was, considering Canada's diverse population and the many ethnicities that call Canada home. This was a beautiful book, and one that I would highly recommend to anyone seeking a new perspective on the world around us.

Thank-you to Erinna at Ronsdale Press for this review copy!

Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Recommended to: Short story lovers, those looking to read more Canadian literature, anyone who has experienced loss in their personal life
Challenges: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge, New Author Challenge 2010