Reviewer: Linda Hepworth
Publisher: Transit Lounge Publishing 1st November 2021
ASIN : B09LH9PTX1 (Kindle)
ISBN: 978-1925760842 PB
The seventeen delightfully eclectic short stories in this collection explore themes which include love, motherhood, childhood, domestic violence, loss, grief, longing, abandonment, migration, alienation, displacement, gender, class, patriarchy, abuse of power, injustice, inequality, climate change, the influence of modern technology … and more! They move between continents and different cultures and between past, present and future; some are set in immediately recognisable worlds, others in worlds which are speculatively dystopian but which are, nevertheless, disturbingly familiar. They embrace mythology and ancestral traditions, science fiction, the supernatural, horror and tragedy. Some are chilling, some disturbing, some poignant, some erotic, some sensuous, some delightfully playful and humorous, with many of the stories interweaving a number of these elements. Four were written collaboratively with other authors (one with Seb Doubinsky, one with Andrew Hook and two with E. Don Harpe) and for me, the fact that each of those stories felt entirely congruent with the others in the collection, reflected the success of those collaborations. I can only imagine the level of trust and respect which must be necessary to achieve this level of harmony but I feel in awe of the generosity of spirit it must involve.
I first became aware of Eugen Bacon’s enthralling and thought-provoking writing when I read Claiming T-Mo (her debut novel) a couple of years ago. Since that memorable story I’ve always eagerly anticipated reading anything new from her, confident that the power of her storytelling will immerse me in the vibrant, imaginative characters and worlds that, with her eloquent and passionate use of language, she is so supremely skilled at creating. This latest collection of her stories has more than fulfilled my expectations because, from first to last, I found myself totally immersed in each one, savouring how, even in the shortest, the distinctive voices and narratives combined to offer multi-layered perspectives. Such is the power of the evocative richness of her character portrayals and scene-setting that when I reached the end of each story I experienced a sense of dislocation, a momentary difficulty in emerging to the reality of the world of my sitting room!
These stories may be short but I found each one so keenly observed and vividly portrayed that I needed not only to linger with the characters, but also to allow myself time to reflect on my thoughts and feelings about the questions raised by some of the challenging themes contained in the stories. I think the extent to which I felt so completely engaged is a tribute to the combination of passion and empathetic understanding which underpins the author’s writing, whether she’s telling a tender story about love, shining a spotlight on prejudice, inequality and marginalisation, or using her stories to explore the impact of climate change or political corruption. This is a remarkable collection of truly memorable stories which I recommend without reservation … but with a suggestion that you should take your time when reading them!