#37 Short stories of love & betrayal
by Clea Young
Calgary: Freehand Books, 2016
$19.95 / 9781988298016
Reviewed by Sharon Kurtz
First published November 7, 2016
The twelve stories in Clea Young’s debut collection Teardown are largely concerned with friendship and betrayal. Best friends can become strangers, or worse, sworn enemies.
There are childhood friends, jealous friends, friends who sleep with husbands, friends who were never really friends at all.
Some stories centre on love: love lost, love discovered, the love of siblings, the love of children and babies, and love betrayed.
Babies, thinking about having babies, and other people’s babies are a central theme to a number of the stories. In the title story, “Teardown,” Marni is stressed during her last days of pregnancy. As she and her partner visit IKEA, they find themselves quarrelling over a light fixture. Sometimes this sort of domestic meltdown in a public place can be forgotten; but other times it can be a game-changer.
With Young’s deft handling, we realize that one partner wants to put down roots, to improve their home; the other is not entirely keen on making a nest. Marni disappears; so Marni’s male partner and the IKEA employee, Juliana, try to find her. Is their relationship going to get renovated? Or is it on the verge of a teardown?
In “Juvenile,” one person’s pain is another person’s pleasure. Pete holds the power; Mia has none. When they meet again on a BC Ferry after ten years apart, you’d expect some growing up would have happened. But Pete remains a dislikable dude. Mia is so shaken be seeing him that she slips back into her supplicant role. Are they reverting to old programming, or are Pete’s meanness and power over Mia irrevocable?
Parenting takes centre stage in “Chaperone” when Holt’s daughter, Beth, and her school friends push the boundaries of the rules on a school trip. Holt is forced to confront his parenting abilities.
Rachel and Rory, the characters in “Firestorm” are attempting to rebuild a trust that they developed in high school. Rachel is not only the victim of her high school sweetheart but also her best friend. What will Rachel’s revenge look like, and who will be the target of her revenge?
A plastic, pregnant body and her pretend plastic baby become a prop in “Congratulations and Regrets.” Feelings of the protagonist are hurt by an ex-roommate, a forced move, a strange room in a strange house with a strange landlord, a temporary job and, yes, misplaced love for a plastic baby.
The surprising possibility of romance infuses the final story, “What are You Good at, What Do You Like to Do?” when the main character, who is looking for work and love in all the wrong places, finds herself being pursued by a loveable character as a result of her job search.
The main characters are usually in a time of flux, moving forward, sometimes by choice and other times driven by the desires of others, as they are thrust into new and unfamiliar territory. How they deal, or don’t deal, with these new situations provides the storyline.
These stories in Teardown proceed at a quick pace; rich in complexity, description and dialogue. They can be depressing or uplifting, and often conclude with a surprise ending. The complexity of relationships is at the core of all of them—at times raw, and other times romantic and hopeful. Some stories readers may hate, some they will love, but none of these stories can be dismissed as boring. Teardown succeeds by revealing how scary and resilient love can be.
Clea Young’s stories have been included in The Journey Prize Stories, as well publications such as Event, Grain, The Fiddlehead, The Malahat Review, Prairie Fire, and Room.
Sharon Kurtz bio forthcoming.
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