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Author of AGAINST A DARKENING SKY, THE EMPTY ROOM, OUR DAILY BREAD, and others. Find out more at www.LaurenBDavis.com. I read as if my sanity depended upon it.. . . oh, wait, it does! Snort.

Island: Collected Stories - Alistair MacLeod

Alistair MacLeod, the Cape Breton, Nova Scotia writer who won the IMPAC award for the splendid book, NO GREAT MISCHIEF, is perhaps best known, at least in Canada, for his short stories.  

MacLeod has been called the bard of Cape Breton, where he was raised and where each of the sixteen stories in this collection are set.  He captures both the atmosphere of the landscape and the tone of the language perfectly.  Some of the stories build slowly, and were it not for the perfection of the prose perhaps one might get restless, but it's deceptive, for so much is going on just beneath the surface, just at the edges of things -- much as it does in real life.  The interior world of MacLeod's characters holds center stage -- their desires, fears, regrets, sorrows, their bafflement, excitement and grief.  Like Flannery O'Connor and her small Southern town, MacLeod has found every great mystery and passion within the confines of poverty-stricken fishing villages and mining towns.  

It is astonishing to me how timeless these stories are.  They seem to exist utterly outside of contemporary life, and yet are undeniably relevant in every way that matters.

Not only are there invaluable lessons for emerging writers between these covers, there are lessons for anyone interested in the workings of the human heart.