I enjoyed Sarah Hall’s The Wolf Border, so I was looking forward to reading her Sudden Traveler for my James Tait Black project. I sometimes have an uneasy relationship with short stories, though.
This thin book is a collection of seven stories. Some of them are slices of life, but others are more fantastic.
In “M,” a woman who was raped as a child transforms into a powerful creature that disposes of men who prey on the helpless.
In “The Woman the Book Read,” a man spots a woman he knew as a little girl on the beach in Turkey. He remembers how much he cared for her when he was engaged to her mother.
In “The Grotesques,” Dilly witnesses the humiliation of a local drunk.
“Who Pays” is quite mystical. Set in the Middle East, it is about village women who figure out a way to circumvent another war.
In “Orton,” a woman decides to disable her pacemaker in the town of her childhood.
“Sudden Traveler” is about a young mother burying her own mother.
I found some of the stories perplexing and “Live That You May Live” is one of them. It’s about a mother telling a terrifying story to her little girl.
The Wolf Border
Best of Ten!
Rachel Caine is an emotionally detached woman who manages a wolf reintroduction program on a reservation in Nez Perce, Idaho. She prefers to keep her sexual liaisons brief and hasn’t returned to her home country of England for years. She takes the opportunity to visit her mother, Binny, when she meets with the Earl of Annandale about a project he has taken on to move wolves into a contained area on his huge estate and nearby national forest lands in Cumbria, near where she grew up. She isn’t interested in the job, but her brother Lawrence has told her that Binny won’t be around long.
After a meeting with the Earl, whom she doesn’t trust, she has a difficult visit with Binny and then returns home. Her personal circumstances change after Binny’s death, though, so she finds herself accepting the Earl’s job.
This is a thoughtful and vital novel that examines the nature of Rachel’s relationships with her family. Events allow her to open the door to people in her life. The novel is complex, not because of the plot but because of the tangle of human thoughts and feelings it examines.
The writing is clear and vivid. I read this book for my James Tait Black project—another winner!
The Lesser Bohemians