cover image Life on Mars

Life on Mars

Lori McNulty. Goose Lane (UTP, dist.), $22.95 trade paper (296p) ISBN 978-0-86492-888-7

McNulty knows how to subvert expectations in a way that leads her readers down literary paths at once familiar and unknowable. Her debut collection of short fiction, which includes two stories previously nominated for the Canadian Journey Prize, embarks on a lyrical, sometimes surreal descent into the unexpected, populated by people who “grew up on the wrong side of sane.” In this universe, a divorcée thinks nothing of saving the life of a cephalopod that communicates in ink-splattered prose, a cancer survivor living in the woods must survive a family intervention, a multi-armed god can’t figure out what to do with its life, and a mother laments being less pretty than her transgender daughter. There is true delight to be found in this menagerie of damaged individuals, all valiantly striving to hold on to their inherent dignity in the face of severe (sometimes ridiculous) obstacles. Sad and funny, delicate and ferocious, this is an intoxicating potpourri of marvelous stories that bears repeated readings to uncover every subtle nuance. (Mar.)