Their family is comfortable with books, so much so that the girl does not hesitate to ask a grown man about the book that he is reading. She has no context for the man’s response, so clearly the family isn’t reading about either pillars or pillows of Islam. And the father values companionability, and does not discourage her from this kind of interaction as they move through the city in company.
All of this matters for specific reasons, but also for more general reasons. “People, after all, are immersed in their devices and concerns,” Bezmozgis writes, later in the same story, as the father and daughter are retracing their steps via public transit. As they are moving away from Rexdale back into the heart of the city. (Are they, too, immigrating, on a smaller scale?)
Something has changed since they left their neighbourhood that morning. And now they, like their fellow travellers, are immersed in their “concerns”. Those concerns.
And what concerns? That would be spoilery. But it’s not all that different from the subjects about which that earlier passage circles. (The one from the other book.) The ways we connect, the ways we don’t. The challenges to that, the ways we overcome them (and don’t). And how we leave and how we stay.
These stories cover so much ground (literally, figuratively) and some (like “A New Gravestone for an Old Grave”) are edging into novella territory, but they circle most tightly around human hearts.
Contents: Immigrant City, How It Used to Be, Little Rooster, Childhood, Roman’s Song, A New Gravestone for an Old Grave, The Russian Riviera
SHADOW GILLER 2019: You can also follow the Shadow Giller Jury’s progress at Kevin from Canada’s site and read Naomi’s reviews at Consumed by Ink. Our reading schedule for this year’s shortlist is here, if you’d like to mark a particular title on your own calendar.