The short story is an art form I love, so much so that I not only grab whatever short story collection comes my way, but I have written a few collections of my own. With the short story comes no expectation about a long term relationship; it’s all about the intensity of each page, each paragraph, each sentence, each line – each word, even. Every single one of them counts, because the writer has a point to make, and has a very limited time to make it.
Writers carry a huge responsibility that they must meticulously do their best to fulfill. A reader opens himself to us, and we have the unique opportunity to touch them in a powerful way. When one thinks of the power that fiction has, one has to be careful to use it for good. A story can uplift just as easily as it can place us in a dark place of despair. While the stories in this collection are beautifully crafted and well written, I do not feel comfortable with a collection of stories that can settle on the reader like a dark cloud.
Traveling Left of Center and Other Stories is a very well written book. The author is clearly talented, and I found myself learning about writing by analyzing the structure of her stories. With each one, Nancy Christie creates a unique and compelling world with only a few strokes of her pen. The underlying assumptions add a layer of richness to an already rich story. The intensity of each story is consequently very high.
These are, however, dark stories. They are stories of being the victim of your own pattern of behavior, of repeating the same mistake and falling victim of those mistakes again and again. On the one hand, these stories are powerful in that they make you wonder how each character got stuck in this destructive pattern of behaviour. Most of us have at least a couple of such patterns which, albeit perhaps not as destructive as the ones in this book, significantly decrease our quality of life. Changing them could have potentially life altering consequences – for the better.
On the other hand, the merciless pounding of mistake after mistake made by the various characters in this collection can be emotionally draining, since no counter, no hope of retribution or change is offered. It makes me wonder what the author could have done to turn this collection into a tool to inspire change.
Traveling Left of Centre is therefore a collection of well written short stories that will make you think but that might drag a dark cloud over your day.