Signs and Wonders

Signs and Wonders


Book - 2012
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A New York Times Editors' Choice and an Oprah's Book Club Summer Reading Pick

In this brilliant new collection, Scotiabank Giller Prize and Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize nominee Alix Ohlin skillfully displays the full range of human emotions through the subtly powerful dramas of everyday life.

In "You Are What You Like" a young couple finds their life derailed by the arrival of a hard-partying old friend. In "Robbing the Cradle" Lisette does everything she can to give her husband a baby, committing an act of desperation. In "The Idea Man" Beth, a divorcee, falls in love with a man who lies for fun. And in the incredible title story, Kathleen finds herself sitting at the hospital bedside of a man she had planned to divorce, comforted by the woman she went out of her way to hurt. These characters are divorced and beginning to date again, childless and longing for children, married and aching for more. Often unexpected and unsettling, always fascinating, Signs and Wonders showcases a young writer of remarkable range and emotional depth.

Publisher: Toronto : House of Anansi Press, 2012.
ISBN: 9781770892088
Branch Call Number: OHLIN
Characteristics: 261 p. ; 21 cm.


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ksoles Dec 24, 2012

"So the important thing to know is that she was miserable." Thus begins Alix Ohlin's impressive short story collection, which offers a brutal but lovely look at relationships and uses acerbic wit to combine cruelty and enticement. In "Signs and Wonders," love fluctuates from deadening stasis to destructive chaos and back. yet, in between external circumstance and conflicting individual needs rests glimpses of self-sacrifice and intimacy. Characters find themselves drawn to marriage and then stuck; they struggle to escape while also feeling compelled to stay put.

Balancing pathos and levity, Ohlin also dynamically captures the intricate emotions of parenthood, a relationship no less difficult than marriage. When a man has a heart attack in "Three Little Maids," his spiteful ex-wife, resented new girlfriend and hostile daughter gather in the waiting room. Ohlin writes, “But each of them needed him: to push against, to argue with, to care for. Years and years could pass and this fact would never change,” perfectly capturing the scene's tension.

Although the collection can seem like one divorce story after another, Ohlin displays a formal inventiveness and uses just enough inventiveness to create excellently crafted stories.

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