"Cover Before Striking" by Priscila Uppal

Who Should Read This: Besides the obvious short-story lovers, readers who enjoy stories that are a little off-beat.

One of the most common phrases in print is “cover before striking,” a warning to those about to innocently strike a match to be careful not to burn their fingers.

In Priscila Uppal’s brand new short story collection, Cover Before Striking, all of her characters are playing with fire.  These are characters who are testing the limits of both themselves and the world around them.  From an immigrant Portuguese family living in Toronto to the feet of a woman who sleepwalks to a man who loves cats, the characters and their stories are different, eccentric, and intense but poignant and touching at the same time.

Whenever I review short story collections I mention how I have a hard time with them because I almost always feel a little unsatisfied at the end of the stories.  I promise this will be the last time I mention that.  Though I do now because as I began to read this collection it is what came to my mind - it’s happening again.  But fortunately, it was just something that occurred in the first few stories and the collection picked up for me from there.  A few of my favourite stories:

Mycosis - a woman discovers something growing behind the toilet in her apartment. As she gives it a place to thrive, it soon takes over her apartment.  When it comes under threat, she will go to great lengths to protect it.

At Your Service - a woman talks to her sister-in-law who has recently passed away about what happens in the days following her death.

Vertigo - an Olympic level diver who suffers from vertigo undergoes a series of experiments to discover a new sport to participate in.  But during the tests, she begins to suffer from hallucinations.

Priscila Uppal is a very talented writer.  She is a poet, novelist, and university professor.  Her book Projection: Encounters with My Runaway Mother was nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award and Hilary Weston Prize for Non-Fiction.  The title story of this book was the winner of the Gloria Vanderbilt Short Fiction Prize.  

Her work in this collection showcases her incredible talent.  The imagery in her writing is absolutely stunning and there is a beautifully dark shade to the humour.  There were many moments in this book that made my mouth drop.  While for me, some stories were much better than others, overall it is a great collection.

I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley. The opinions expressed above are my own.


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