Title: The Redemption of Galen Pike
Author: Carys Davies
Publisher: Salt Publishing
Release Date: 2014
I love short stories. I love how they allow me to go to so many different places and have so many different experience, while not putting too much of a strain on my attention span. I’m full of admiration for writers who master the form, who are able to tell engaging stories and create believable characters in such little space. Carys Davies is definitely one of them. In her concise language and tight narratives, Davies illustrates how far apart we are and how little we know of each other. Set in such diverse places as a Colorado jail, a Siberian inn and the Cumbrian fells, her quirky stories tell of life, death, loss and human bonding. Some stories are barely a page long, some are hardly stories at all, and some are decidedly puzzling. Some of the stories I liked very much and some I hardly remember now. I guess that’s often the case with short story collections, even if they are very very slim (148 pages).
My favorite short story collections are unsettling and surprising, often with a dark twist. This is where I feel The Redemption of Galen Pike is lacking. It does have some unnerving stories, flashes of menace, and a lot of harsh settings, all of which I enjoyed. But overall the style is a bit too light, a bit too playful. The characters seemingly diverse but all ultimately seeking friendship and understanding. Several of the main characters felt very similar, to the point where it sometimes took me a while to figure out their gender. It’s no bad collection and Davies has won a lot of awards for her stories, but it kind of missed the mark for me. Maybe I’m just generally more interested in deterioration than redemption. But go ahead, give it a go. If you’re new to short stories, this could be a decent place to start (and then you move on to Dahl, Yates and Jackson), and the book itself is very pretty!