My first Emma Donoghue book was The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits - a short story collection built on historical tidbits and facts that was released in 2002. I've enjoyed many more titles from Donoghue since - Slammerkin remains a favorite. I was thrilled to see that her latest book Astray was again a collection of short stories with their origins found in obscure historical realities.
In this latest collection Donoghue explores all the ways a life, a person, a path can go astray...." on and off, for the past decade and a half, I've been writing stories about travels to, within, and occasionally from the United States and Canada. Most of these travelers are real people who left traces in the historical record; a few are characters I've invented to put a face on real incidents of border crossing. Many of them stray in several senses, when in the course of their journeys across geographical and political boundaries they find themselves stepping over other ones: law, sex, or race. Emigrants, immigrants, adventurers, and runaways - they fascinate me because they loiter on the margins, stripped of the markers of family and nation; they're out of place, out of their depth."
The places and times of the stories in Astray are varied, ranging from London to New York to Texas to Canada and more and ranging from the 1600's to the 900's. Donoghue is able to write with different voices and outlooks, providing a fresh and unique outlook with every exploration.
It's hard to pick favourites, but I think Counting the Days - the story of a reluctant emigre and her husband who went ahead stayed with me. As did The Gift - a series of letters from a mother trying to find her child.
I absolutely adored this book. Each story was a little glimpse into a life gone before - a reminder of a life, a moment, a time. At the end of each, Donoghue provides us with the 'real' details - the names, the times and the places that these people inhabited. I found myself stopping after each tale, savouring what I'd read and wondering about what might have happened next for those captured by Donoghue's imagination. In a few cases, my interest piqued, I went online and did some research of my own. And, I also stopped in an effort to make the book last longer - I didn't want it to end. Looking for a book to spend that gift card on? Look no further. Read an excerpt of Astray.
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