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book review:

Animal & Other Stories

This is a mixed bag of short fiction tackling a theme of the unexplored and unexpected borderlands of the animal world. A woman’s interest in a dog is misunderstood, Lady alienates her neighbours and upsets her husband by cutting down a tree and an older man leaves his wife in the country with horses, hens and a silent farmer. A number of the stories don’t really develop and it is difficult to understand if they have a meaning or, if so, what it might be. This is not because they are so strange but rather because they are not quite strange enough. Many of the stories hint at the magical and the extraordinary, juxtaposing it against banal situations and relationships. But this strain isn’t sustained or carried from story to story, so while most of the writing is solid, the collection doesn’t add up to a remarkable body of work.

Leggat attempts to illuminate the unusual meeting points between humans and other animals and while this is sometimes deep and thoughtful, more often it is a little contrived. The most successful example is “Blue Parrot,” about Cass and her sister-inlaw, Lila, who don’t get along. When Lila shows up at Cass’s place she is carrying a glass parrot ornament, a present from Cass. Cass expects complaints about how it doesn’t fit in with Lila’s perfect life but Lila has grown quite attached, chatting in secret with the parrot and trying to protect it from the evils of the world. Tensions really heat up when Cass starts to pretend she can also talk to the parrot… The interactions between the women and the glass parrot which is somehow more than glass are intriguing and the relationship between all three is believable and compelling.

The funniest story is “Colt 45,” in which a young woman’s active dream life exasperates her boyfriend. As she explains it to her shrink, “Everything pretty much happens like in real life, except I’m a chick and I play for the Colts.” Her love for football has invaded every part of her brain but she is thrilled rather than disturbed. It’s a very well-written and witty piece of fiction but it doesn’t blend that well with the rest of the stories. (Kris Rothstein)

by Alexandra Leggat, $18, 169 pgs, Anvil Press, PO Box 3008, Main Post Office, Vancouver, BC, V6B 3X5,

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