Ian's Reviews > Light Lifting
May 31, 2012
Alexander MacLeod's first collection of stories is distinguished by a raw, muscular quality that lifts it above the ordinary. In these seven pieces the characters often face decisions that place body and soul at risk. Many are stretched to the limit of their endurance, testing their bodies against their will to succeed. Or they are staring squarely into a gaping hole where their life used to be, struggling through the aftermath of some misfortune. In defiance of profound physical revulsion, the young narrator of "The Loop" saves the life of a particularly loathsome individual. And in "Wonder about Parents," narrated with staccato immediacy, a young couple must cope with the challenge of a deathly ill infant. In these stories one emotionally charged event follows another and there is no respite for the reader. Only occasionally does the writing become verbose, and as the narrative meanders the tautness is lost, as in "Adult Beginner I," where through grit and determination a young woman quells her fear of drowning to excel as a swimmer, only to risk everything in a single, reckless act. But overall the lapses are few. Light Lifting creates more tension and suspense than we have any right to expect of a debut collection of short fiction. Shortlisted for the 2010 Scotiabank Giller Prize.
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