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Hellgoing by Lynn Coady

It took me awhile to get into this collection of short stories. I had just finished White Teeth, and it seemed that switching gears from novel-brain to short-fiction-brain left me feeling unfinished as each piece ended.

It took me until about the third story  “Dogs in Clothes” to really get into the pace and characters, but after what seemed like a false start (it took me forever to get through the first two stories) I ended up finishing the book in a day.

Hellgoing is the name of the collection as well as one of the stories within, but each piece deals in some way with a character going through personal hell. There are volatile relationships, lots of religion, lots of guilt, childhood confusion, Eastern Canada harshness, and bad families aplenty.

Have you ever read a book set in your hometown or homecity, homeprovince, and resented one or more of the characters just a little bit because they remind you of someone you know from there?

There were definitely characters in Hellgoing that reminded me of people and attitudes I’ve run into in Nova Scotia. Sometimes I wondered if me being annoyed at certain characters was stopping me from taking in the larger message of the book, but with each story being so short, I would find myself at the end of one before I really adjusted my attitude, and so read on to the next tale.

It’s funny, and I wish I knew whether or not I would have had the same reaction if I’d read and book without knowing the author Lynn Coady had grown up in Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia.

My annoyed involvement did add another layer of appropriate Nova-Scotian-ness to the reading. Everyone always has an opinion about someone. I guess that’s me too.

Coady’s prose is good – it’s concise and certain. I laughed at her ability to poke fun at her insight and industry in Clear Skies – about a writer’s retreat hosted in the Prairies.

Do I recommend? Yeah. This is a great commuting book as well. I found each story took me around 20-30 minutes to finish, so potentially perfect for someone looking for something to read on the bus or ferry.

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