Monday 15 August 2022

Animal Person

Finished June 6
Animal Person: Stories by Alexander MacLeod

This collection of stories focus on the behaviours that people exhibit when put into positions that are dark, startling, or threatening. The link back to our basic animal instincts is made real in these eight stories. 
Lagomorph goes deep into a person's connection to the family pet rabbit Gunther, going back to how he was acquired up to the circumstances of one particular day.
The Dead Want is the story of an untimely death of a young woman and the cousin that she was close to, from his point of view. As the family gets the news and must travel to the place where she is, we see how he goes over memories of their relationship, and then deals with the situation as a young adult, caught between family and other ties.
What Exactly Do You Think You're Looking At? is the story of a man who tries to create a connection by borrowing other people's luggage, looking through the contents and making up stories about the person it belongs to and the things he finds. Until the day that something doesn't go the way he expects it to.
Everything Underneath tells the story of a boy and his sister, close in age. They are snorkeling for the first time, and moving away from shore, together, yet apart. He is reminded of another incident recently where the two of them did something together that ended with an injury, and suddenly the link between the two events becomes clear and urgent. 
The Entertainer is a story that caught me immediately. It is told from several points of view. One of them is a young piano teacher, seeing her best student freeze during a performance, another is the student themselves, caught between conflicting parental pride in their accomplishments and a feeling of disconnectedness with the music and their hands. The third is a man in the audience, there with his wife, who is also struggling with a form of disconnectedness. As they come together, something happens that is beautiful. 
The Ninth Concession has a boy looking back on an incident with him and a friend that changed their relationship, that was as he thinks, the beginning of the end. He thinks about the differences between himself and his friend, the financial differences, the social differences, the experiential differences, and a difference that he hadn't been aware of until it became real.
Once Removed is a story about a young couple who have a planned visit to a great-aunt of his who lives in the same city. With the day's heat and humidity, she, Amy, suddenly feels no longer up to the long bus rides to get their with their small child, but he insists, as they'd promised to come and he knew his relative would have prepared. On the trip over, she reflects on how she felt, and why. The visit includes the elements that she expected, the meal and conversation, and photo, but also an unexpected element, a task for the aunt's friend. This opens Amy's eyes to new thoughts about the aunt and a connection that she hadn't expected. 
The Closing Date is about a connection between a family and a man at a motel. The family is waiting for the closing date on their new home, and for the moving truck with their possessions to arrive. The man has a plumbing van. The child's friendliness, and a need for professional help complete the connection. It isn't until late that they discover the unsettling truth.
McLeod is an excellent writer that makes his characters and situations real as if they were happening to people you know. A great collection.

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