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Tuesday
Jan092018

Book Review: This Far Isn’t Far Enough

This Far Isn’t Far Enough. Lynn Sloan. Fomite, February 20, 2018, Trade Paperback, 209 pages.

Reviewed by Hallie Koontz.

This Far Isn’t Far Enough, by Lynn Sloan, is a collection of short stories about characters facing adversity. The characters, the lives they lead, and the circumstances surrounding their struggles vary from story to story, yet these characters are all linked by their strengths and weaknesses, courage and fears, and powerlessness and resiliency, which are all adeptly rendered by Sloan’s storytelling.

One of the ways Sloan accomplishes such a smorgasbord of related stories is with her attention to detail, which is one of her greatest strengths as an author. For instance, the menu in her opening story about a trendy pop-up diner–like establishment staged in the protagonist’s apartment is tantalizingly specific, as are the details she throws our way about the character’s menu choices and food preparation techniques. While it’s interesting to read well-crafted descriptions about food in any story, it is absolutely necessary and intriguing to read these descriptions in a story about a chef. In another story, a home video plays a central role in the protagonist’s backstory and is delivered in snippets that are woven through the story. The video’s descriptions, such as, “she’s knelt on the grass to steady the camera and waits,” mentally frames the scene in the video as video and not in the character’s reality. This conjures in the reader’s mind a grainy, low-resolution screen and a shaky camera. In the final story, the ticking of a clock resonates through the pages, and in the minds of both protagonists, but the ticking has different meaning for each character. Many of Sloan’s stories share this technique: a defining memory; a recurring sound, thought, or sight; or, a specific meaning derived from something ordinary. If you were to render an illustration for each story, it would not be difficult to find a common image that would be emblematic, as well as unifying, of all of these seemingly unconnected stories.

Sloan also shows a variety of central conflicts, breaking points, and coping styles in her stories. The stories are so different that it is near impossible to get bored, and no one story seems to be more important than any other one. Although some of the central conflicts might appear objectively more serious than others, they all have equal emotional weight. These stories have problems or conflicts that are impossible to solve, and nearly impossible to handle. This ability to convey the desperation of her characters is another of Sloan’s strengths in storytelling. No character behaves too drastically. He or she might be illogical and impulsive, but it never happens without the necessary build-up to reaching some kind of emotional climax. Sloan is also very good at subtlety: she often implies backstory without stating it, and her delivery of most exposition is very elegant, although there are times when outright stating a fact or feeling would be better than dancing around it through dialogue.

This is a collection of exceptional stories by a talented writer who understands that emotions are sometimes indefinable and conflicting, that facing adversity can require more than just courage, and that human feeling is complex and intricate. If you are in the mood for a layered exploration of both human weakness and strength, this is a good book for you. 

 

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