Two Award-Nominated Canadian Short Story Collections

In Hellgoing, Lynn Coady presents nine unique stories that present human nature in a funny and incredible way.  A young girl whose religious fanaticism leads her to anorexia and the nun who is charged of helping her, a couple involved in an S&M relationship, a bride who throws herself down the stairs in order to cope, these and many more interesting characters make up this award-nominated collection.

These are stories of flawed people with unusual problems and yet the characters come across the relatively few pages and make you like them.  The theme that runs through the book are people whose inner lives are at odds with the world they inhabit.

While I usually find that when I read a book short stories that a few stories stand out more for me than others, that wasn't the case here.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading every single story.  One really has to wonder what is going on in Coady's head, or who she meets in life, that she was able to bring these characters to life!  I'm not a big reader of short stories, I often find that a little too much is missing for me.  But this time around, I found the balance just right.  There is enough to the story to hold my interest but the right amount is left up to the imagination.  

I don't often feel confident enough to recommend a book of short stories, but this one I do.  Coady uncovers the things that live deep down inside of us, the things that people keep hidden and she brings them to the light of day in her pages.

Hellgoing has been shortlisted for this year’s Scotiabank Giller Prize and Rogers’ Writer Trust Prize.

How to Get Along With Women is Elisabeth de Mariaffi’s debut collection of short stories.  While the twelve stories in this book may not give you the advice suggested by the title, they do give you unique insight into female relationships.  With subjects such as love, friendship, loss, anxiety, and abuse, this book covers a variety of topics.  

My feelings about this book were typical of how I feel about short story collections, some stand out more than others.  In this book, there were two stories that really hit me - “The Astonishing Abercrombie” and “He Ate His French Fries in a Light-Hearted Way.”  In both of these stories I found the main characters to reach out and grab me, there were more to the stories than met the eye, and I really wanted to know more about everyone involved.  

But unfortunately, the rest of the stories did not do the same for me.  That is understandable though.  There are lots of other people out there who have felt differently about this book and the fact that it is an award-nominated book this year shows that it is worth picking up, especially if you’re a fan of short stories.  

A word of warning though: reading this book in public, say on the bus or in a waiting room like I did, will make for some very interesting looks toward you, given the fantastic title and cover.

How to Get Along With Women was long listed for this year’s Scotiabank Giller Prize.


  1. Oh, it's so nice to hear that someone has almost exactly the same response as me...even down to the two stories from How to Get Along With Women that stood out above the rest! I'm about halfway through Hellgoing right now, and my reaction so far matches yours exactly. Hellgoing might just end up being the first short story collection that doesn't leave me scratching my head at one moment or another.

    Thanks so much for these reviews. It really made my day to hear thoughts and opinions that so closely echo my own.

    1. I'm so happy to hear someone else is having the same thoughts as me. I often feel like I'm missing something when it comes to short story collections.


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