Friday, May 15, 2015

Acquainted With Squalor - Nath Jones

Title: Acquainted with Squalor: Short Stories
Author: Nath Jones
Publisher: Life List Press, 2015 (Paperback) (Review copy is an ARC from the author)
Length: 274 pages
Genre: Adult; Realistic Fiction
Started: May 14, 2015
Finished: May 15, 2015

From the back cover:

Acquainted with Squalor delivers astonishing power of body-and-soul. Meteors fall, and old neighbour tosses an infrared Phoenix beacon into a cup of loose  change, and a woman on the phone with a friend mentions nothing about her eviction notice. These nine stories nourish our sense of wonder and acknowledge our deepest despair. Who has the endearing audacity to call a lover "Governor General"? Who will sit down on a hot day to eat frozen blueberries on a country lawn? Nath Jones captures what it means for us to be at home and still awash in the world.

I received a copy of this from the author about a month ago, but unfortunately due to craziness at work (midterm reports and literary essays) I had to put off reading it until this week. It's unfortunate I had to put off reading it, because once I finally did, I was struck by how amazingly true-to-life and emotionally powerful these stories are.

There are nine stories included in this volume, and I definitely have my favourites. "Blindfolded on Some Old Pedestal" is quite funny, and I was amazed at Marguerite's gall towards the old woman. As a mother, "How to Cherish the Grief-Stricken" really hit home about grief and mourning the loss of a child, with the cruel twist that the children's deaths were actually caused by a parent. "Rogues" was immaculately accurate in terms of its perspective of a teenage girl dealing with her first crush and interference from her friends. As a teacher, I felt like this could have been picked out of the mind of any of the girls I've taught. "The Nightmare State of Leduc" is another story that can be uniquely appreciated by parents, this time about a husband and wife debating smashing open their young son's heirloom piggy bank in order to retrieve his mother's rings that were placed inside.

The writing style here is honest and at times, gritty. Seemingly everyday things witnessed through an intricate lens makes for an engrossing read. Normally I'm not a fan of most short stories because I feel I never quite get attached to the characters like I should to the point where I care about what happens to them; I never had that issue here. I actually ended up crying when I was reading "How to Cherish the Grief-Stricken", and found myself smiling in fond remembrance when reading "Rogues"; I found myself quite invested in the stories and the characters, which is an impressive feat in my opinion for a short story collection.

Well-written with a variety of unique voices and true-to-life scenarios, this collection has something for everyone to enjoy.

Thoughts on the cover:
Simple yet intricate, just like the book itself.

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