The Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction celebrates excellent short story collections by writers who are either from the Atlantic Provinces, or live here now. This prize is named for beloved short story writer Alistair MacLeod.
Here are the 2020 nominees…
A Dark House and Other Stories by Ian Colford, Vagrant Press – a Nimbus Imprint
I was happy to see this book on the shortlist. I briefly discussed it here a couple of weeks ago, along with a few other short story collections. I said things like “The first story… is absolutely devastating” and “There is not a dud in this book” and ” Highly recommended“.
To read more, visit my review!
Dig by Terry Doyle, Breakwater Books
Another book I was pleased to see on the list – that I have also previously written about – where I said, “The stories in Dig are short, contemporary snapshots of ordinary people’s lives. And what a wide and interesting variety of lives people have…”
To read more, visit my review!
Dig is also a finalist for the Margaret and John Savage First Book Award for Fiction, and the Danuta Gleed Literary Award.
Nosy White Woman by Martha Wilson, Biblioasis
I’m happy to be able to introduce a new book to you in this post – another collection of contemporary snapshots of every day life, with a focus on families.
I like it when short stories start off strong, and there are some good first lines here:
When I was fifteen my father was struck by the notion that it must be mystifyingly difficult, or impossible, to create a Chinese dictionary.
Gary Lehtinen was touched by another person for the last time at the grocery store, four days before he died.
One bright Fall afternoon I was on Pinterest browsing pictures of window boxes, while also trying to figure out why anyone would want to be Speaker of the House.
I was procrastinating at work, trying to figure out what’s happening in Togo, when Maura entered the lunch room with the look she gets when she’s had another dream that I died.
In one of my favourite stories, The Golden Bra, there are three sisters, one of whom cares for their mother and has an alcohol problem that she denies. When their mother dies, and the sisters want to get the estate in order, and Hayley says “I will not let you down on this”, the narrator wants to believe that Hayley still values their relationship more than her alcohol needs.
Wanting to believe my older sister still loved me now made me a sucker and a fool, vaguely pathetic and puppy-like, unable to learn from experience. I felt like a high school girl reluctant to let go of her first boyfriend. An objective observer would say, “Why do you keep chasing this relationship?” Because it was so much harder than I ever imagined to quit hoping.
Another favourite, Midway, is about a big family who all work at the family business – fruitcake. (“Fruitcake is not well understood.”) Our narrator sometimes finds it hard to have family involved in every part of her life.
Your family was your go-to source of employment, socializing, religious insight, houseplant cuttings, cooking and driving instruction, home down-payment loans, romantic advice, and general wisdom and personal feedback on how you were faring with your life goals.
Other stories in the collection include: a teen obsessed with architecture, SPCA volunteers, a man with depression who thought his love for his girlfriend had cured him, a woman who is the only one in her Canadian family who follows U.S. politics, a grieving woman who eats a can of frosting most nights for dinner, a couple who believe in the possibility of the Loch Ness monster, an older man who unknowingly goes through all his “lasts”, and a new minister who does away with the youth group’s Halloween fundraiser.
The Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction is part of the Atlantic Book Awards.