Perfect for readers of George Saunders, Jennifer Egan and Heather O'Neill, a rich and inventive collection of exquisite short stories by a major newcomer to Canadian literature.
In this deeply felt, compulsive and edgy work, Sarah Meehan Sirk shines a distinctive light on love and death in their many incarnations, pushing against the limits of the absurd while exposing piercing emotional truths about what it means to be gloriously, maddeningly alive.
In "The Dead Husband Project," an artist who has planned to make an installation out of her terminally ill husband's dead body has to recalibrate when his diagnosis changes. In "The Date," an online dating match takes an unusual turn when the man who shows up to the restaurant has no face. In "Ozk," a young girl longs to connect with her socially isolated mother, a professor of mathematics who makes a radical discovery.
Uncanny, sometimes violent, achingly sad and always profound, these stories showcase a writer with skill and empathy, and draw us in with a steady, unyielding grip.
First Chapter or Excerpt
The Dead Husband Project Sweaty, limbs entwined, blankets kicked to the floor. Paris. Maureen Davis had married Joe McGovern five days earlier in a gown she'd made herself and pinned with flowers that had wilted before midnight. The ceremony bare in an unadorned gallery, the guests unsure whether it was real or performance art or something else altogether until the wine came out and the mini spanakopitas were passed around and Phil dumped a pile of blow on the altar, and then no one seemed to care one way or another. She'd been buoyant that night, her feet hovering inches off the ground as she bobbed along at her new husband's side through the riotous guests and the churchy scent of burned-out candles. Joe rubbed his bare foot against the arch of hers. She shimmied closer over the sheets and pressed her back against him; he wrapped his arm around her waist. They were sticky and hot and smelled of fermented wine and smoky hair and they couldn't get close enough to each other. "Everything enmeshed," he said, kissing the back of her neck. "Eating, working. Fucking, sleeping. Everything together." Noise from the narrow cobblestone street below wafted up through the heavy, shifting curtains: male voices barking in rapid French, café chairs scraped along time-worn stones, laughter at the expense of someone. Impossible to tell if it was day or night. "You say that now." "Now. Always." He reached for a cigarette and lit it. "Forever and ever, amen." He sat up and clicked on the radio, the ladder of his vertebrae pressing through his freckled back. Something unknowable beneath the surface. But she knew, knew each bend and curve and divot and mole. She traced her finger down the lowest part of his spine. He took a long drag. "I've been thinking," he said. "I've got this idea. It would be collaborative." He passed her the cigarette. His hair was flattened to his skull in parts, sticking up in others. Everything he did made him think. Everything he did made him want to create. Red creases from the sheets crisscrossed between the moles on his shoulder blades. She could feel his excitement, the heat of it. A furnace roaring to life. He was always coming up with new concepts, brilliant concepts. More now, it seemed, and she liked to think that she was his muse. She took a drag and gave it back to him, rolling onto her stomach. She knew whatever it was would take him away, for a time. But that was who he was. And he was hers. "What time do you think it is?" she asked, faking a yawn. "Eight-thirty. The announcer just said it. Vingt heures et demie." "Oh. I wasn't listening." She was. Her French sucked. "We should eat something." Joe stood, dropped the butt into a glass of water and swivelled his hips so his penis circled around and around. He kissed her before going to the bathroom to pee. "It's that 'until death do us part' line," he said over the tinkle of his urine in the toilet bowl. "I've been thinking about what that means. Like, imagine if when one of us died, the other one--" The rest of his sentence got lost in the flush, the blast of water in the sink. He gasped as he splashed his face. She watched him sashay to the window and throw open the curtains to the Paris night, naked, his body stretched out like a star. Hoots and whistles up from the street, a woman shouting a cascade of incomprehensible words. "I don't want to think about you dying," Maureen said. He turned his face to her with his arms and legs still splayed, framed by the window. His expression draining of performance, his eyes quieting. He looked back out onto the street and over the rooftops. "It's not about that." His voice almost tender. "It's about permanence. Love. What endures, what doesn't. What's left in the end." He yanked the curtains closed and used his teeth to pull the cork out of the bottle of Bordeaux. "Anyway, it's just the start." He poured mouthfuls into each of their glasses. "Seeds. Nothing yet in the ground." He placed the bottle back on his nightstand, lit another cigarette and lay down beside her. "Decades to go before I sleep." Miles, she thought. Miles to go. She watched the smoke rise to the cracked ceiling, her hand searching for his in the wrinkled sheets. Such beauty in a crack, the patternless zigzagging of it, this scar of decay. The possibility that the floor above could give way and fall through, plaster and wood and frayed wires collapsing onto them mid-fuck. She started to have ideas. Things falling apart often gave her ideas. He rolled on top of her, pressing her body into the soft mattress, blocking her view of the crack. "Doesn't inspiration make you horny?" he asked. He took one last drag and dropped his cigarette into her wineglass. Excerpted from The Dead Husband Project by Sarah Meehan Sirk All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.