Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sleeping Funny by Miranda Hill

Miranda Hill's debut collection of nine short stories, Sleeping Funny, is a treasure trove. Every story in here is strong and there is no risk that her writing will be overshadowed by that of her more well-known husband, Lawrence Hill. Even readers who normally avoid short stories might like to give Sleeping Funny a go, because Hill's narrative flow and sense of humour are irresistible.

Here's a bit from the title story:

"At the party, Clea's daughter Minnie got a goldfish instead of a loot bag. On the way home in the car, Minnie held the plastic bag in her lap. Out of the corner of her eye, Clea watched the fish bob like a shimmering piece of guilt.
When Clea came down, groggy and off balance, Monday morning, Minnie was brushed and dressed and eating her cereal. The fish was lying motionless at the top of the water. One clouded eye stared up at Clea.

'This goldfish was not the right pet for us,' Minnie said. She tapped the fishbowl with her spoon. 'This goldfish did not know how to adapt.'"

Three strangers are drawn together by their desire for a modern-day miracle in "Petitions to St. Chronic," which was awarded the Journey Prize in 2011. A World War II widow tries to shield her grief from her young son in "Digging for Thomas." A couple of the stories veer delicately into the supernatural realm. In "Apple," a particular clairvoyance is more effective on high school sex education students than toting around a plastic baby simulator.

"The Variance" is the lead story and also the longest. It's about what happens when a nonconforming family moves in and shakes up the social interactions in an affluent urban neighbourhood. Sort of a cross between Where'd You Go, Bernadette (Maria Semple) and the short stories in Zsuzsi Gartner's Better Living Through Plastic Explosives. It's all good.

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