Running the Whale's Back: Stories of Faith and Doubt From Atlantic Canada

Edited by Andrew Atkinson and Mark Harris. Goose Lane Editions (UTP, North American dist.), $19.95 trade paper (305p) ISBN 978-0-86492-913-6
Editors Atkinson and Harris embrace Atlantic Canada's rich heritage of tale-spinning and story-telling, gathering together 19 stories plus ancillary material for readers' edification and enjoyment. Contained herein are tales of sudden death and unexpected redemption, sour-faced, pride-filled religiosity and more humble expressions of faith, all set in a region always challenging and often lethal to its inhabitants. Although all of the stories display laudable craft and ambition, of particular note are Samuel Thomas Martin's "Running the Whale's Back," source of the anthology's title, a story of a man's life spiraling out of control, and Kenneth J. Harvey's "Two Crosses," an unexpected encounter with death. The anthology is unified by the editors' clear image of the kind of stories they expect from Atlantic Canada, an image perhaps too clear or at least too limited. Individually, the stories are noteworthy but they lose something when assembled together like this; the range of themes and obsessions proves oddly constrained. The impression the reader is left with is of harsh lands populated by grimly religious people, a place where the weather kills and where stories too frequently prove too similar in tone and treatment. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 11/18/2013
Release date: 10/01/2013
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