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Whirl Away

3.40  ·  Rating details ·  344 ratings  ·  69 reviews

Everyone has something they’re good at: one particular personal skill that they use to keep their lives moving forward when their worlds suddenly become difficult or near-impossible. For some, it’s denial; for others, blunt pragmatism. Still others depend on an over-inflated view of self to keep criticism and doubt at bay.

In his new short story collection, Whirl Away, Russel
Paperback, 224 pages
Published March 17th 2012 by Thomas Allen Publishers (first published February 24th 2012)
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Average rating 3.40  · 
Rating details
 ·  344 ratings  ·  69 reviews

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Usually the title of a short story collection is taken from the title of one of the stories it contains.
Not this one. None of the stories are called “Whirl Away”.
But they do all represent people whirling away in some form or another. They lose control, and can only follow the rule of centripetal force. The violent directions are inevitable and the forces difficult to overcome.
The most outstanding and unsettling story, “Echo”, is about a 5 year old boy, alone in the back yard, o
"No, really," she'd ask him. "How'd you even get in the same room with each other, let alone end up married?"
And John would do what he always did, pushing his hands through the hair at his was a way of saying that he wouldn't answer, that the conversation was done.

The twelve stories in Whirl Away are about people whose lives are quietly spinning out of control. This is straight-forward and precise writing grounded in realism. Nothing strange or ambiguous here, just clear-eyed visions
Rebecca McNutt
I loved all the short stories in Whirl Away; some are better than others, a few are distinctly Canadian but their themes are universal and are important no matter where you live.
Linda Lipko
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
Well written short stories that contain characters who seem to live on the edge. The characters are those who seem to have one foot over the abyss, and because life isn't working as it should, many are ready to take the final step.

An award-winning Canadian book, I liked some of the stories and had empathy, while other characters were near-do-wells with whom I couldn't relate.
Sep 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canlit
I'm not usually a big fan of collected short stories. My reading preferences are solidly weighted toward the novel format. The short story is, to me, more like a musical study: a showcase for one particular technique or sound. Yes, it might be terribly impressive in it's own right, but I'll take a symphony with its themes and motifs over any hundred of teasingly brilliant studies.

Every now and then, however, there is a collection of short stories that captures my attention. Whirl Awa
Robert Stewart
Oct 22, 2012 rated it did not like it
Too many of these stories read like first-year creative writing exercises (i.e. Write a story where a young boy uses language to cope with the domestic violence in his home; Write a story where an old woman dominates a conversation with an authority figure; Write a story where someone is served with legal papers...). These can all be decent premises if handled correctly; if the writer gives them a unique spin, or some unexpected structure. But I've read all these stories before. Done better by s ...more
Steven Langdon
Oct 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: super
The 2012 Giller Prize nominees for best Canadian fiction are an impressive lot this year. I am not usually carried away by a collection of short stories, but "Whirl Away" is exceptional, and a strong part of the Giller quintet. There is a universalistic and cosmopolitan feel to this year's Giller list -- with globe-straddling settings in all four of the novels, and themes that focus on such basic human questions as the relationships between children and their parents. From this perspective, Wang ...more
Lured by glowing reviews well written by people I admire, in addition to the accolades of the GR world, I hunted down and then coddled this book for the right moment, sure I was in for a treat and ready to be whirled away. I had recently read and quite liked RWs novelThe Glass Harmonica and indeed, I recognized his style: compact, precise, vigilant to an inner logic th ...more
Jan 16, 2015 rated it liked it
I would have liked this collection a lot more if the tone had varied away from depressing at some point. While the stories were generally perfect length and well-executed, they were so damn bleak. Every single story just drained you with its pathetic or run-down characters. There was one exception – the last story I liked quite a bit because though the story overall was rather sad, the ending featured reconciliation instead of just more isolation. Granted, I Like a good sad story once and awhile ...more
Feb 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I sat down to read a few of these and found them utterly absorbing, still and easy on the surface, but plumbing great depths of disconnection and misunderstanding.

There are stories of domestic violence, sexual assault, and relationship disintegration of various kinds, but the common thread throughout is a close examination of those small moments that cause relationships and lives to begin to unravel.
Buried In Print
This review was deleted following Amazon's purchase of GoodReads.

The review can still be viewed via LibraryThing, where my profile can be found here.

I'm also in the process of building a database at Booklikes, where I can be found here.

If you read/liked/clicked through to see this review here on GR, many thanks.
Feb 17, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Although the prose is clean and the writing reasonably insightful, Wangersky's themes are common and his approach bland. Surprisingly, for a seasoned writer, these stories seem more at the level of a promising first year creative writing student. All of the writing elements (story, characters, themes) are solid, but certainly not unique. His strongest story of the lot is perhaps, 911.
Sep 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Definitely my pick for the Giller. Each story is a gem!
Alison Cummings
Feb 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I enjoyed this collection of short stories. Reminds me of the style of Alice Munro. Lot of bittersweet tales that exemplify the human condition. There were stories I preferred over others. But overall, this was a nice read, and I did feel I entered the lives of the characters.

**Spoiler altert:** I would have preferred a more ironic ending to Sharp Corner. Maybe that would have been too predictable and uncharacteristic of Wangersky's style, but my thought would be to have his wife die
Oct 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-of-2017
I chose to read this book because when I was shelving books at work I came across it and no one had taken it out since 2013. Seeming brand new book I decided to give it a chance and potentially save a book from being weeded. Well it was an AMAZING book!! Clever short stories that happen all over Canada but they have a twist and a dark side to them!! (Not too dark but broken characters who find out what it’s like to have their coping skills taken away).
Nov 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
Wangersky seems convinced of the misery of human existence. Short stories are for examining the human condition, but the conclusion Wangersky comes to regarding the human condition doesn't quite reflect reality in my opinion. Of course his stories outline dark circumstances that happen in real life, but these stories seem to despair and hint at a kind of meaninglessness that doesn't ring true.
Aug 27, 2017 rated it liked it
I haven't thought much of this book after reading the first couple of short stories ... then gradually warmed up to its short stories (I started to discover shades and hues, lives alike and yet so far apart). It would be boring if we were all the same.

2.5 *s and a decent quick read.
Daniel Kukwa
Aug 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: canadian-lit
A mixed bag of a collection, where the strongest & most engaging stories reside in the first one hundred pages; it feels a bit more scatter-shot after that. "Bolt" is the first and best story of the collection, but honourable mention goes to the darkly humorous "Sharp Corner".
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: good-riddance
This is the book that made me realize that short stories probably aren't for me. The stories are all well-written, but I found it hard to care. Most of the stories are about broken relationships or unexpected violence, but there's not much emotion and the stories were a little too small-town/boring.
May 03, 2018 rated it liked it
A couple good stories but for the most part more Canadian pretentious writing! I should have known since is won the giller award lol! Overall meh
May 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Well written stories that come from left field. Very nicely done.
Jul 07, 2018 rated it liked it
A few stand out stories, like 911. But overall I didn't enjoy the voice of the characters. It was hard to get involved and that made it hard to get through this collection of stories.
Michael Bryson
Apr 10, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Mark Anthony Jarman has a review of Russell Wangersky's short story collection, Whirl Away (Thomas Allen, 2012), in the Globe & Mail (March 17, 2012).

It's a fine review and an excellent summary of the book, which I have just finished reading.

"Like Cheever or Munro, Russell Wangersky delves stealthily into disquieting corners of the domestic sphere, his stories dissecting lives when they are fracturing, lives at stress points, lives much like the roller coaster at the
Dec 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 10, 2013 rated it liked it
The characters who populate the stories in Russell Wangersky's collection Whirl Away are risk takers who frequently face down life-threatening situations and even death—or else embark on risky behaviour that leads them to the brink of what is morally or socially acceptable. Because of this, most of these grim, spare stories have some degree of narrative urgency about them that propels the reader through. Wangersky's most trusted strategy is to drop the reader into a situation that is well on its ...more
Jan 03, 2013 rated it did not like it
***I received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads/Giveaway

What caught my attention with this book was the first paragraph of the synopsis:
"The stories in this dazzling new collection look at what happens when people's personal coping skills go awry. These are the people who discover their anchor-chain has broken: characters safe in the world of self-deception or even self-delusion, forced to face the fact that their main line of defense has become their greatness we
Ruth Seeley
Nov 07, 2012 rated it liked it
Wangersky's an interesting writer whose work has a huge body count - someone ends up dead in the vast majority of the stories in this collection. There's more than a hint of Russell Banks in his writing, I think (at least in his characterizations - alienation is us). The Flannery O'Connor comparison hadn't occurred to me, but I like this review of the collection:

Shirley Schwartz
Oct 31, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: prize-winners
Not My Favourite-I normally don't read short stories (unless it's Alice Monroe) but this book was a finalist in the 2012 Giller Prize, so I decided to read it. The stories are certainly different, and I'm not sure I really understood them. I certainly didn't identify with any of the characters. I usually try to pick a favourite story out of a book of short stories, but that was little difficult with this book. I guess if I have to pick one, it would be "Look Away" which is a story about a lighth ...more
Feb 24, 2013 rated it liked it
This one was short-listed for the Giller.

The stories focus on people at the point of centrifugal change - thus the whirling away.

Wangersky brings together rather small lives with big moments, usually against a backdrop of large or encroaching landscape (how very Canadian).

Also very Canadian - lots of death in or near the characters.

My favourites from this collection include a story about a small boy sent out to the porch while his parents argue in the house,
Dec 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
(Fiction, Short Stories, Atlantic Canadian)

From Amazon: “From the caretaker of a prairie amusement park to the lone occupant of a collapsing Newfoundland town, from a travelling sports drink marketer with a pressing need to get off the road to an elevator inspector who finds himself losing his marriage while sensuously burying himself in the tastes and smells of the kitchen, these are people who spin wildly out of control, finding themselves in a new and different world.”

Whirl Away
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"Raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, .. his father was a professor of oceanography at Dalhousie University and his mother, a marine biologist, ran a tight ship.. Predilection for dangerous .. and explosions" led to "rugby at 16 -- gave it up two broken noses, three cracked ribs and six concussions later" at age 32. At Arcadia University, he was also "a volunteer firefighter in Wolfville.

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