January 20, 2019

Winnipeg
-23° C, Clear

Full Forecast

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Willis's remarkable stories offer ruminations on love

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 4/3/2017 (687 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Dark and Other Love Stories is the second collection from Albertan Deborah Willis, whose first collection, 2009’s Vanishing and Other Stories, was nominated for a Governor General’s Award. The title hints at the mystery of love, and the entire collection could be called a rumination on love and its astonishments.

Willis shows mastery of the form throughout these 13 stories, never judging her characters, but rather letting them amaze us as much as they do themselves. There is an edge of the bizarre in a few stories; Willis is adept at making the unusual accessible, carrying us to the edge of the disturbing or ludicrous, but always keeping her characters grounded in the hard reality that love demands.

In Todd we see the relationship, if that’s the right word, between a well-meaning slacker dad and his crow. It’s easy to agree with the guy’s ex that he’s weird, but the capricious actions of the bird and the passive-aggressive nature of the man reminds one of many human relationships, right up to the sad ending. It is strange, and Willis never pleads for sympathy, but how not to feel for the bereaved man upon Todd’s death?

In another bizarre bird tale, The Passage Bird, a girl is enchanted by the hunting hawks and falcons of a neighbour, coming to believe she sees her sorely missed dead brother in one of them.

Get the full story.
No credit card required. Cancel anytime.

Join free for 30 days

After that, pay as little as $0.99 per month for the best local news coverage in Manitoba.

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Join free for 30 days

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Subscribers Log in below to continue reading,
not a subscriber? Create an account to start a 30 day free trial.

Log in Create your account

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Mon to Sat Delivery

Pay

$34.36

per month

  • Includes all benefits of All Access Digital
  • 6-day delivery of our award-winning newspaper
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 4/3/2017 (687 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Dark and Other Love Stories is the second collection from Albertan Deborah Willis, whose first collection, 2009’s Vanishing and Other Stories, was nominated for a Governor General’s Award. The title hints at the mystery of love, and the entire collection could be called a rumination on love and its astonishments.

Willis shows mastery of the form throughout these 13 stories, never judging her characters, but rather letting them amaze us as much as they do themselves. There is an edge of the bizarre in a few stories; Willis is adept at making the unusual accessible, carrying us to the edge of the disturbing or ludicrous, but always keeping her characters grounded in the hard reality that love demands.

In Todd we see the relationship, if that’s the right word, between a well-meaning slacker dad and his crow. It’s easy to agree with the guy’s ex that he’s weird, but the capricious actions of the bird and the passive-aggressive nature of the man reminds one of many human relationships, right up to the sad ending. It is strange, and Willis never pleads for sympathy, but how not to feel for the bereaved man upon Todd’s death?

In another bizarre bird tale, The Passage Bird, a girl is enchanted by the hunting hawks and falcons of a neighbour, coming to believe she sees her sorely missed dead brother in one of them.

Equally strong are Willis’s stories of adolescent girls (and boys) sprinting into adulthood. One of the high points in the collection is Flight, in which a 16-year-old flees her parents’ safe life for the Vancouver streets. Striking up a brief encounter with an easygoing and kind 20-something man, she soon returns home and plans out her life — which she soon realizes includes turning her adventure into an anecdote.

She imagines meeting the man years later and denying she is the girl he helped. She realizes the man was her first encounter with gravity, as the story puts it — which could be love.

In The Ark, the lifelong antagonism between a boy and a girl, both part of a strong church life, ends after some adventures of growing up — this time in marriage. The secrets they know, the simple (if challenged) faith they share, leads each to the solidity of their own ark against the world. It seems unlikely even to them, but perhaps the companionship forged in childhood is enough for a life. The girl, Leanne, knows Toby, the boy, will always be there to catch her when others won’t.

Even better is The Last One To Leave. At first it’s puzzling to follow the two intertwining stories of an ambitious young woman working at a small-town newspaper and an immigrant escapee from Stalin’s Russia who works in logging.

The reader wonders where it’s going, until the reporter interviews him as a "town character." He barely speaks, but their unlikely love develops, going on for almost half a century. After his (and the town’s) death, she too becomes silent — there is no one left to talk to.

Part of the joy in reading the stories is noting how in lesser hands, they could become cliché or sentimental. Not so with Willis. Her approach is dynamic and fluid — the reader gets caught up at once in the empathy laced with a tinge of melancholy.

Willis wants the reader to expect a lot from her characters. They deliver what their creator intended in emotional spades in this splendid collection.

Rory Runnells is the artistic director of the Manitoba Association of Playwrights.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective January 2015.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us