(K.D. Miller’s collection did not make the shortlist for 2019’s Giller Prize, but it was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for English Fiction, and although I haven’t read all those nominees and expect there are other fine contenders, I would have been pleased to see Late Breaking receive such an award. The winner was Joan Thomas, and since I loved her last novel, The Opening Sky, I’m looking forward to Five Wives too.)
But as for the content of the stories in Late Breaking, it’s commonplace material: suicide, euthanasia, murder, psychosis and divorce. (!!!)
That’s right. These stories feel quiet and subdued, the language and syntax ordinary, and although there is some complexity in the arrangement of the stories, the most adventurous structural elements are alternating perspectives and some flashbacks and pleated recollections: it seems like there’s nothing special here.
Except for the sense of being punched in the solar plexus by the joys and losses that comprise our everyday lives.
At the heart of the collection are relationships.
- Between characters and their deeper selves. (“She has to look at this woman and see someone she no longer is. Get past the familiar. Paint what is already strange and gone.”)
- Between characters and their children. (“Gradually, as Ranald grew and left her alone for longer periods of time, she managed to gather herself back to herself.”)
- Between characters and their lovers. Or, their lost lovers. (“It sounds like something she might have on hand in a spice rack or medicine chest. Cream of tartar. Oil of cloves. Absence of Eliot.”)