cover image Welcome to the Circus

Welcome to the Circus

Rhonda Douglas. Freehand Books (Broadview, U.S. dist.; LitDistCo, Canadian dist.), $21.95 trade paper (188p) ISBN 978-1-55481-228-8

This debut short story collection from Douglas (Some Days I Think I Know Things: The Cassandra Poems) contains 10 stories, all of which bubble with originality and daring. Douglas captures the voices of her characters perfectly within the different forms her stories take. In the epistolary “La République de France v. ‘Mata Hari,’ ” readers witness Mata Hari’s increasing desperation as the men she has loved—and with whom she now pleads for help—betray her. In “God Explains the Collapse of the Cod Fishery,” Douglas takes the role of the omniscient narrator to its logical and bittersweet conclusion. And in “Cancer Oratorio,” a choir uses a musical composition to process its grief at the loss of one of its members to cancer. Even in stories that take more traditional forms, Douglas’s skill and insight are evident as she explores recurring themes of love and escape: three teenagers from Cupids, Newfoundland, are infatuated with their French teacher and the cosmopolitan life he represents; an anthropologist is more than captivated by an unfrozen Neanderthal discovered in Drumheller; a teenage boy, obsessed with the idea of love, cuts the words of John Donne into his flesh. This is an exhilarating read.[em] (May) [/em]