Whirl Away

Whirl Away - Russell Wangersky These stories turn on moments in which their characters are yanked from their everyday existences.

That ordinary, day-to-day life?

It's there, and the reader understands its dimensions, but the focus is elsewhere.

"Hard, steady work, and no money in it either. When there was fish, there was no price for it. When there was a price, there wasn't any fish. But you're not here to hear about that, I know. And we're almost there anyway."

That's Helen Goodyear, in the story "Little World".

She's giving another character a tour of sorts, but some passages from this story serve as a short tour of Russell Wangersky's stories as well.

For what Helen Goodyear's audience wants to hear about is not the everyday life of a fisherman's wife but an act of violence that she has witnessed.

This requires some adjustment on the listener's (and reader's) part, because circumstances have altered.

"There's a current right across the face of the wharf, and you have to watch it coming in and aim your bow as if you're trying to hit the right-hand side square on." ("Little World")

Accident, death, seasonal rituals, divorce, the black marks that screeching tires burn into pavement, leave-takings: the stories in Whirl Away are rooted here.

Sometimes in the narratives, time slows and characters notice strange details while caught up in chaos. Sometimes the focus is on the broad strokes of the action playing out, but always against a background of a fully drawn character.

Russell Wangersky might not be waiting, like the narrator of "Sharp Corner", for listeners (readers) to flinch, but these stories are often flinch-worthy.

Brutal and graceful: Whirl Away is a remarkable collection of stories.

Much longer discussion of this work is available on Buried In Print.