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Pickle Me This

December 6, 2017

My Life With Bob, by Pamela Paul

It’s here! I’m on vacation, in my reading life at least. Which is the way it happens every year sometime in the first half of December when I realize that I’m done. And that for the rest of the month I’ll be reading books just for fun, because I want to, unabashedly and uncritically and for the love of it (including four big books I’ve been saving for the holidays when I take time off-line, biographies of Vita Sackville-West, Svetlana Stalin, P.K. Page, and Joyce Wieland). I’ll be reading books just like I read Pamela Paul’s book, My Life With Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues, voraciously and with delight. I loved My Life With Bob, which I bought Friday, started reading Sunday evening, and finished last night whilst sitting on my kitchen table waiting for the pasta to boil.

It’s the kind of book that makes you want to write a book just like it, an autobiography through reading. I would write about reading Tom’s Midnight Garden when my first baby was born, and the night after the second when I sat up breastfeeding and reading Where’d You Go, Bernadette? Reading Joan Didion for the first time on a tram in Hiroshima, which was around the time I started reading Margaret Drabble, the secondhand bookstore in Kobe that’s responsible for my connection with some of the writers I love best. Reading Astonishing Splashes of Colour, by Clare Morrall when I had pneumonia, and Fear of Flying on a plane to London, and The Robber Bride when I was far too young to properly understand anything it could tell me. I really could write an entire book like this—except it probably wouldn’t be as good as Pamela Paul’s.

“Bob” is Paul’s “Book of Books,” a list she’s been maintaining for decades of all the books she’s read. A list without annotations, but who needs annotations, because when she sees the titles they call forth an array of memories and stories. Forcing herself to read the entire Norton Anthology in college, the books through which she learned about New York before she lived there, reading Kafka on an ill-fated high school exchange to France, and her own Catch-22—”the unquenchable yearning to own books—to own books and suck the marrow out of them and then to feel sated rather than hungrier still.” These essays are not necessarily about the books in question, but about what it means to be a book person, to identify as a reader and have literature underline one’s lived experience.

The essays are so incredibly good. They are subtle and unnerving and do precisely what essays are supposed to do, which is to catch their reader off-guard and take her somewhere she wasn’t expecting. As life itself tends to do, and we follow Paul through college, and then post-college travel to Thailand, through the precarity of her early career, and such a stunning sad essay about her short-lived first marriage. Which leads to self-help, of course, and of the time Paul took a writing course with Lucy Grealy (right??) and how she gradually became a writer, as well as a reader. (And oh, do not forget the essay about her relationship with a man who liked the “Flashman” series. Needless to say, it didn’t work out, all this in an essay on the impossibility of getting along with someone whose books you do not like.) And then the essays on reading with her children, and the one on her father’s death and Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose books, which don’t have so much to do with one another except that books are not so simple and so his death and the books become intertwined.

“Ultimately, the line between writer and reader blurs. Where, after all, does the story one person puts down on the page end and the person who reads those pages and makes them her own begin? To whom do books belong? The books we read and the books we write are ours and not ours. They’re also theirs.”

And as I begin my reading holidays, I’m quite ecstatic that this one is mine.

December 5, 2017

Short Story Splendour

Things Not to Do, by Jessica Westhead

I still remember my first Jessica Westhead short story, the title story from what would become her debut collection, And Also Sharks. It was 2012 at the Pivot Reading Series and I was sitting at the bar, and was enthralled: this was a voice like no other. A character whose voice is the light in her darkness, the force and will of it. I loved that entire book, and Westhead’s latest collection does not disappoint those of us who’ve been waiting for it. From Judy who has been working on her assertiveness, to the wedding DJ and Justin Bieber’s dad, and these stories are sad, funny and so quietly and powerfully subversive. I loved them.

A Bird on Every Tree, by Carol Bruneau

This collection had me with its very first story, “The Race,” in which a disappointed war bride takes her chances in a marathon ocean swim, and as a swim-lit aficionado, I was besotted. The story was a feat of language—such sentences. And it’s not just that all the stories in the collection are that splendidly written, but that they manage to be with such incredible breath—historical fiction with the war bride, and then a nun via Lagos, a new mother in a greenhouse with her baby on her chest, a married couple unmoored in Italy, a mother leaves her grown son in Berlin: “We wake to the news that Osama Bin Laden is dead. My treasure in tow—the cheap, matted repro of Kollwitz’s Sacrifice—we catch our early morning flight to Rome.” Old flames and burning fires, and some stories in which the fire goes out completely. If this book were non-fiction, it would be an encyclopedia, because it’s got the whole wide world inside it.

The Whole Beautiful World, by Melissa Kuipers

And speaking of the whole word, let’s turn to Melissa Kuipers’ debut collection, which I read over a lovely couple of days in early October. Not all the stories were equally impressive, but those that set the standard were really great. I loved “Mourning Wreath”, a look back at a childhood friendship and this fantastic image of a letter written along the entire length of a roll of tape. Many of the stories take place within small, tight-knit Christian communities where the outside world is viewed with suspicion: the sight of a dead cow and a preacher’s invocation of hell commingle in “The Missionary Game.” I also really liked “Happy All The Time,” which tracks how a reaching college kid turns into a cult leader, and “Mattress Surfing,” worlds colliding when an ultrasound technician contemplates the tiredness of her romance with a air balloon pilot.  Memorable and original, these are stories that have stuck with me.

What Can You Do, by Cynthia Flood

I knew I was in very good company when I was out for dinner in late September, and we were talking about books, and every single one of us had something admiring to say about the work of Cynthia Flood. At that point I’d just read the first or second of the stories in her latest collection, What Can You Do, a collection I’d been well advised not to barrel through but instead to savour slowly, story by story. In the first story, a vacationing couple try to recreate a memory but find it haunting by disturbing stories in the present. In the second, a woman attending an event alone soon after a break-up takes the most satisfying revenge. And oh my gosh, the rumours of a kindergarten predator in “Wing Nut,” hiding behind a tree: how do we ever discern what is reality? Plus the girl who finds the letter from her dead mother hidden in a desk. I could go on. This isn’t a collection that’s easy to talk about as a whole, but every single one of its parts is worth an entire conversation. I like these stories, and they’re ones that I’ll return to.

November 30, 2017

The Marrow Thieves, by Cherie Dimaline

Do you know what’s NOT very original? Me writing about The Marrow Thieves, by Cherie Dimaline, that’s what. The book that won the OLA White Pine Award, the Governor General’s Award for Young Readers, the big-deal Kirkus Prize, among its many accolades, and has since run out of space on its cover for awards. I first encountered Dimaline at The Festival of Literary Diversity in 2016 on a fantastic panel about faith in literature, and she was so impressive I bought her short story collection A Gentle Habit right after and I really liked it. But even so, I was less inclined to pick up her novel that followed it, because I was all, “YA dystopia, huh? No way.” Partly because of my own genre-biases, it’s true, but also because the world is dark enough: why should we throw a pack of post-apocalyptic teens into the mix?

But we should, actually, as advised by Shelagh Rogers who tweeted, “I am delighted @cherie_dimaline. The Marrow Thieves is billed as YA. I urge A’s to read it!!” And then this fall everywhere I went, people kept asking me, “Have you read it yet?” Until finally, I had no choice but to buy it, and I am so glad I did, because (and you never saw this coming): The Marrow Thieves was amazing!

Although it took me a few pages to settle into it, to get a sense of the shape of the narrative. It’s from the point of view of Frenchie, a 17-year-old who travels through the wilderness of Northern Ontario with a ragtag family of kids and a couple of elders ever on the move to escape the clutches of “the recruiters,” officials who take Indigenous people away to special “schools” where their bone marrows are harvested. The reason? Climate change has sent the environment into turmoil and as a result of the devastation people have lost the ability to dream—except for Indigenous people, whose resilience and connection to the land has enabled them to survive one apocalypse already and whose dream lives are an essential part of their cultures. And so the bone marrow of Indigenous people become coveted, the key to recovering the ability to dream without which people the world over are going mad.

The book begins with Frenchie’s brother being taken by the recruiters, after the boys have already been separated by their parents and the world is a dangerous, toxic place. Using his wiles, as well as his connection to the land and remarkable abilities in hiding and climbing, Frenchie gets away from the recruiters and is eventually found by Miig, who tells Frenchie and the other children who travel with him the story of what has happened to their land and their people, some of this story still speculative to novel’s the reader and much of it historical fact. We follow Miig and Frenchie and the rest of their found-family, learning the often harrowing stories of how many of them came to join the group.

But soon the recruiters are getting closer, and the stakes are getting higher. Three quarters of the way through, this novel becomes so difficult to put down and part of the appeal is that all its darkness is underlined with such abundant joy. The love story between Frenchie and Rose is part of this, as well as the family love between Frenchie and Miig and the other members of their group, and the strength and wisdom they carry on their journey that seem incorruptible. Amidst the YA darkness is the rich spirituality of the novel and its sense that some things—love, not least among them—are inconvertible. That life and love and land are worth surviving for.

And the third last page! The third last page! It had me audibly gasping like a, well, like a grown up devouring a YA dystopian novel in all its incredible goodness. I still can’t get over that third last page, and what it leads to. I loved this book, and urge you to pick it up if you haven’t read it yet.

November 27, 2017

Your Heart is the Size of a Fist, by Martina Scholtens

After a few days stuck in a reading rut, I knew I was probably going to enjoy Your Heart is the Size of a Fist, by Martina Scholtens MD. I’d flipped through it and supposed this was a collection of vignettes about a doctor’s experience working with patients at a Vancouver refugee clinic, a timely topic with the arrival of thousands of Syrian refugees in Canada over the last two years, and considering that our previous Federal government had seen fit to cut refugee healthcare—a decision that was reversed when the Liberal government restored benefits in 2016. A few passages jumped out at me—there was a bit about Canadian sponsors and infantilization of the refugee families they’d supported, which is something I’ve been thinking about a lot, the complexity of those relationships. This would be a book I’d find interesting, I knew.

What I was not anticipating was that I’d be so compelled by the work as literature, for its shape as a memoir, the glimmer of its prose, and for its depth and richness as memoir. These are not just stories of Scholtens’ patients, the story of her work, its challenges and contradiction, its joys and satisfactions. The book is framed by Scholtens’ engagement with a family newly arrived from Iraq (although, as she writes in her preface, her patients in the book are composites of actual people for privacy concerns) and also by her own family life as she suffers a miscarriage and then later becomes pregnant again, giving birth to her fourth child. She counsels the Haddad family through their health concerns (PTSD among them), works to diagnose their son’s developmental problems, talks to their teenage daughter about sexual health, and gives the girl’s mother advice about how to get pregnant all the while being wary of the many health risks involved. Along with this family, we are shown glimpses into Scholtens’ relationships with other patients, from Kenya, Myanmar, Syria and Iraq.

It is with Scholtens’ own pregnancy loss and the profound way in which her own healthcare provider is present for her that she has a revelation about the role she plays in her patients’ lives. Previously, she’d felt uncomfortable with their profound gratitude toward her when she felt as though she wasn’t really providing anything, or certainly only providing to piecemeal solutions to the problems they were working to overcome in their lives. But she comes to understand the value of a physician just to bear witness and listen. She comes to understand too that while the gifts her patients bring for her, for example, might make her uncomfortable, her patients are seeking to balance a relationship in which they feel profoundly indebted. Or else gift-giving is an important cultural touchstone for that particular patient—and there funny and lovely anecdotes depicting these interactions.

Bearing witness is no small thing though, and Scholtens writes beautifully about her own struggles. What does it do to one’s spirituality and notions of God and good and evil, to see evidence of the harm and trauma that people can inflict on others? How does she reconcile her own comfortable life in contrast to the poverty and social isolation of the people she cares for? How to balance the demands of her job with her own mental health and general wellbeing—not to mention the demands of caring for four children? How to bridge cultural gaps without undermining the essential nature of cultural identity and religion?

Your Heart is the Size of Your Fist becomes a story of how a doctor learns from her patients the answers to all these questions, or at least discerns clues as to the direction to go in search of answers. To say that it’s an uplifting and breezy read should not undermine the spiritual weight of Scholtens’ story and its importance—but hopefully it will compel you to read it.

November 13, 2017

The Prisoner and the Chaplain, by Michelle Berry

An interesting thing was that I started reading Michelle Berry’s novel, The Prisoner and the Chaplain, on the night the clocks went back, which meant I ended up reading most of it on a day with an extra hour in it. The extra hour significant in light of the novel’s treatment of time, counting down the final twelve hours of a man’s life before his execution. Even for those of us for whom the future is not so limited, a twenty-five-hour day serves to underline how much every hour matters. And such a day is useful too, particularly when one is reading a novel as difficult to put down as this one is.

The novel begins as part philosophy—a treatise on faith, belief, on the nature of self—and part bildungsroman. There are two men in a room, a prisoner who has committed a heinous crime and the prison chaplain tasked with being with the prisoner in his final hours. The chaplain is young, inexperienced. He’s only there at all because his mentor has become ill and no one else can do it. And the chaplain wonders if even he can do it, if he’s up to the task, considering his inexperience and also the violence in his own past. What will these hours make of him?

The prisoner though, he just wants to talk. To tell the story of how he got from there to here, and he begins with his childhood, his mother’s abandonment, his brother’s violence, his father’s alcoholism, his sister’s descent into addiction. Petty thievery leads to larger crimes, one thing leading to another, this story told in chapters interspersed with those set in the present, which is ever encroaching upon their limited future. And here the chaplain reflects on his own violence, the events leading up to it. How is he different from this man before him, the chaplain wonders? Why is this man and not another the one who deserve to die?

It’s as intense as you’d expect, this story, the intensity growing stronger as the hours count down, as the prisoner gets closer and closer to revealing his crime. I read this novel right after Alison Pick’s Strangers With The Same Dream, which was similarly intense and had overlapping thematic concerns (certainty being one of them) and on Sunday night I had such a troubled sleep, and the next book I chose from my shelf after that would have to be a slim little volume called Calm Things. But still, it is a testament to the novel and a mark of its success that it’s just so unsettling. It’s not every book that creeps into your head like that, gets right into your dreams.

By its conclusion the novel has also become a thriller, and it’s here one sees the connections between The Prisoner and the Chaplain and Berry’s previous novel, Interference, which was similarly genre-blurring and feature and underlying current of violence, a sinister edge. Contributing to the unease of The Prisoner and the Chaplain is that the prisoner’s story never quite lines up with the one the chaplain knows is on the official record, although he’d been warned about this by the warden. That the prisoner would try to get under his skin, to get him onside. And is this what has happened when the hour for the execution is imminent and the chaplain is quite sure the prisoner didn’t actually commit the crime he’s being punished for? Or is this really the case of an innocent man who’s about to die?

The novel’s momentum starts strong and just keeps going and going, and then the ending packs a wallop. Make sure you set aside a good block hours before you start this book, because you’ll be needing every one of them.

November 7, 2017

Euclid’s Orchard, by Theresa Kishkan

One of my greatest claims to fame was that I once tied for second place in an essay contest with  Susan Olding—whose collection is the wondrous Pathologies: A Life in Essays—and that the first place spot went to the magnificent Theresa Kishkan, who would soon after publish Mnemonic: A Book of Trees. In terms of literature, I don’t know that I’ve ever been in finer company, and I don’t think I properly appreciated this in the moment. Seven years later, I look back and can’t believe that really happened, but I am glad it did—mostly for how it brought me to these authors’ work.

In the years since then, Kishkan has published two novellas, and now a new essay collection, Euclid’s Orchard, which I read avidly over a couple of days last week. It’s a book I’d been looking forward to for a long time and whose genesis I knew a lot about and had kind of born witness to as an avid reader of Theresa Kishkan’s blog. Which is also how I knew that these essays, while they explored many of Kishkan’s usual preoccupations, had been written during a particularly trying time in her life, when she was awaiting a scary medical diagnosis, confronting the weight of her history (so much of it left unknown with her parents gone), and contemplating the wonders of her own children coming up in the world, and becoming a grandmother.

The title essay comes at the end of the collection, referring to her son’s proclivity for mathematics, which came as a surprise to both his parents. She writes of trying to understand the codes and languages of her mathematical son’s mind, and of trying to map such understanding onto her own experiences through quilting. But she is also writing about fruit, and grafting, and the orchard she and her husband planted when they arrived at the place that would become their home, and orchard that would be abandoned for reasons the essay delineates. Which is to say that the fruits they would harvest weren’t the fruits that they were planning on—and isn’t it always the way? There’s not a formula for that. Nor for keeping out the coyotes and the bears either. Kishkan is writing about patterns, and functionality, and parenthood, pollination, and Fibonacci numbers, and coyotes singing:

They were our names, our bodies under the heavens, all of us singing together in different voices to tell the story of our orchard, our time here, in this place we have inhabited since—for John and me—1981, and the only way to shape the story is through connotation, not ordinary discourse, though I praise the literal, the specific, but by reaching up into the starlight to parse what lies beyond it.

Reaching up into starlight (figuratively speaking) is also the only way left to search for answers to the gaps in Kishkan’s parents’ histories, particularly as historical documentation has proven elusive and misleading. In two essays, she tries to make sense of these gaps and the documents, as she searches for her mother’s birth parents—her mother had been born to an unwed mother and raised as a foster child—and as she explores the history of her father’s family, immigrants from what is now the Czech Republic who become homesteaders near Drumheller, AB, although some sleuthing reveals her grandparents had been squatters whose petitions to own the lands they lived on had never been successful. And what do they mean, all these pieces and gaps in her history. As Kishkan writes, “the only way to shape the story is through connotation,” and Kishkan does this masterfully.

In the other pieces, she writes directly to her remote father who always seems disappointed in his sons, who had never properly regarded his daughter. On what to do with a fifty-year-old bottle of her mother’s perfume. She writes about the landscapes of her childhood, places firmly etched on the map of her mind. About trees and flowers, cuttings the history and stories of gardens—and this book is a nice complementary read to Helen Humphreys’s new book, The Ghost Orchard, which I read not long before it. Euclid’s Orchard is a collection of fascinations and astonishments, of the world as it is and was and is ever becoming.

November 6, 2017

The Intricate Properties of Teacups

“How well we artists and writers know the chances of our work sinking into the abyss! And yet how grateful we are to be able to make these marks, to live a life that risks blooming in the bracing cold, that can offer tender furled messages, indecipherable traces. A life that has allowed us to sink into the knowledge of the real and difficult abundance, while merely sitting before a white teacup on a table. It is something, as well, to pay attention to traces of these fine eruptions of gratitude that escape into paint. For we have much yet to learn about how souls connect, let alone about the intricate properties of teacups, their simple gleaming.”

Calm Things: Essays, by Shawna Lemay, “Of Coffee Pots, Teacups, Asparagus and the Like”

November 2, 2017

Rereading Autumn in autumn.

I returned to Ali Smith’s Autumn because when I read it in April I was as baffled by it as I was entranced. And I returned to it also because it was actually autumn, October: “October’s a blink of an eye. The apples weighing down the tree a minute ago are gone and the tree’s leaves are yellow and thinning. A frost has snapped millions of trees all over the country into brightness. The ones that aren’t evergreen are a combination of beautiful and tawdry, red orange gold the leaves, then brown, then down./ The days are unexpected mild. It doesn’t feel that far from summer, not really, if it weren’t for the underbite of the day, the lacy creep of the dark and the damp at its edges, the plants calm in the folding themselves away, the beads of condensation on the web strings hung between things./ On the warm days it feels wrong, so many leaves falling./ But the nights are cool to cold.” And now it is November, which is the very point.

I finished rereading Autumn and was no less baffled than I was the first time, which normally would frustrate me, but there are so many things in this novel that function as footholds, even when reading makes me totally lost. The characters of Elisabeth and Daniel, the satire of post office bureaucracy, the beautiful writing, the contemporary nature of the setting, its immediacy. (“It is like democracy is a bottle someone can threaten to smash and do a bit of damage with.”) I got such comfort from that when I read this in the spring, the world being too much with us—and yet somehow it was helpful, a comfort, to find it in a book. Upon rereading I underlined the part (though I underlined many parts) when Elisabeth is reading A Tale of Two Cities and sees her own reality reflected in literature: …it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness… And Smith writes, “The words had acted like a charm. They released it all in seconds. They’d made everything happening stand just far enough away.” [Emphasis mine.]

The main character in the novel (apart from the man who is a tree, obviously…) is a lecturer in art history, and art features prominently in the story, particularly the art of Pauline Boty, who was a founder of the British pop-art movement and its only female painter. Both worked in collage and I got the sense that Smith’s novel is kind of a literary homage to her style, figures and ideas from current events cut out of newspapers and magazine and glued onto a surrealist background. The kind of art I’d take my kids to see exhibited, even though we don’t fully understand the project, because so much in the images are recognizable, remarkable, and interesting in their new contexts.

This time when I read I took note of all the instances of “leaf,” and “leaves,” and trees and scrolls. On the remarkable ways that book speak to the world around us (like when Elisabeth is reading Brave New World in the post office and comes across an allusion to Shakespeare, looking up at the very moment to see an advertisement for a Shakespeare commemorative coin on display), what the novel says about neighbours and neighbourliness in the age of Brexit, about what is story and what is fiction and what is real, about drawing lines and blurring lines, divisions and connections. And speaking of lines, my very favourite one in the entire book continues to be, “Whoever makes up the story makes up the world,” which is an idea that continues to fascinate me. When Elisabeth is asked a question, “Why should we imagine that gender matters here?”

Also, “Time travel is real… We do it all the time. Moment to moment, minute to minute.”

And so, here we are.

October 31, 2017

Jesus on the Dashboard, by Lisa Murphy-Lamb

When I was in Edmonton in September and Stonehouse Publishing won the Emerging Publisher of the Year Award at the Alberta Book Publishing Awards, I had some familiarity with the press—mostly because the day before the bookseller at Audreys had taken care to bring me all their books as examples of a small press making beautiful books and doing it well. The only reason I didn’t end up buying one of their books was because they were historical fiction, which isn’t always a genre I go for, but when I learned that one of their latest releases is set in the 1980s, which is one of my favourite periods in all of historia, I was immediately keen. Even more so when I saw the cover, and read the synopsis; Lisa Murphy-Lamb’s Jesus on the Dashboard, I decided, was right up my street.

The novel is about Gemma, seventeen-years-old, whose mother’s departure years before has been somewhat traumatizing, part of the reason why Gemma is remote from her peers and her father, refuses to be touched, has food issues, and why her deepest bond is with her therapist. Which makes it all the more surprising when Gemma’s estranged mother’s cousin Rachel (who one shared a house with Gemma’s parents) turns up with her eldest daughter with a curious invitation for Gemma—and Gemma even accepts it. It seems that Rachel has changed her wild ways and become a born-again Christian, as has Rachel’s mother Angie, and they both attend the same church in Springbank, Alberta. And now Angie has gone and adopted a Korean orphan in an effort to find her way back to motherhood, and Rachel wants Gemma to be part of that journey—would Gemma like to come and spend the summer with her family?

Of course she goes, because the premise of seeing her mother again is irresistible, but it’s not that straightforward, because Angie knows nothing about Rachel’s plan, but Rachel has been praying, and Rachel has faith. And in the meantime, Gemma finds herself part of a busy raucous household nothing like the one she shares with her father, and she has to navigate the complicated social terrain of her cousin Penelope who tells her, “I may be churchy, but I’m no virgin.” Consistency is overrated, which is probably a good lesson for anybody to learn early, and I loved Murphy-Lamb’s depiction of Penelope and her friends who embrace their faith and the world and all that contradiction…which is what saves Gemma in the end when the show-down with her mother finally happens, and she realizes she’s stronger than she ever knew.

Murphy-Lamb writes great prose with humour, and crafts her characters with a loving sympathy that will totally win your heart. “I’m glad I went,” Gemma tells her therapist at the end of it all. “If I hadn’t gone, I would have spent the summer surrounded by double garages, aerated lawns, stuccoed houses, and my own self-loathing.” A line that tells you something about the singularity of her narrative voice, the way that Murphy-Lamb strikes the right balances between precocious and naive, impossibly young and wise-beyond-her-years, and something too about the joy of having access to her stream of consciousness. At some points I found the narrative hard to follow and the book could have benefited from a tighter edit, but neither of these points overrode my appreciation for the novel, whose ending is just fantastic.


October 26, 2017

Dozens of Umbrellas

“In the meantime, I found work in a dollhouse shop. We sold tiny things to put in them, from lamps to Robert Louis Stevenson books with real microscopic words in them. Peter got a job in a graveyard, installing tombstones, digging graves, helping with Catholic burial processes, and cleaning up messes. He would find diaphragms, empty bottles of spirits, squirrel kinds left over from hawks’ meals, and dozens of umbrellas. He brought the umbrellas home, until our apartment started to look like a cave of sleeping bats. I had an umbrella sale one Saturday when he was at work:


It was an overcast day so I did well for myself. ”

—From “The Mouse Queen,” by Camilla Grudova, in The Doll’s Alphabet

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