The book’s dedication: For all the girls who loved a boy they shouldn’t have, and all the broken boys that heal’.
A homeless man gets breakfast. A woman plucks limes in her garden. A student and his girlfriend run into an old school acquaintance. Ordinary days and lives. But these eight interlinked stories soon slide us toward brooding hearts, deceit, addiction, and the shadows of domestic violence. These vulnerable people, hungry for connection, veer toward Paul, the Dark Poet.
‘He is a dark planet and around him circles floundering stars .. People caught in his orbit, lovers as debris caught in his gravitational pull’. P.17.
Paul is that dangerous creature, the charismatic man. The sort of man who can break a woman ‘into a million pieces if he smiled with just the wrong smile followed by just the right sneer’. P. 38.
Kathryn Gossow’s skill is to create this character, who we soon grasp is Bad News, and who yet grimly fascinates. As a reader I got caught in his orbit too.
I particularly admire good short stories, and this collection, moreover, left me thinking about people I have known. I think that it will have that effect on most readers. What will you think about?
For instance, who, really, are the people around us? Could the woman next door be a seer? Could that homeless man pluck a story from our hearts? Will that luminous elven girl one day become a guilt wracked women in the aisles trying to remember to the marmite?
Mark is guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears.