cover image Farthest South & Other Stories

Farthest South & Other Stories

Ethan Rutherford. Strange Object, $16.95 trade paper (184p) ISBN 978-1-64605-047-5

Rutherford (The Peripatetic Coffin) grips with evocative detail and subtle rhythms in this accomplished collection, where doubt and danger simmer underneath the surface. Illustrations by Anders Nilsen, often featuring animals or children in stark scenes of nature, reinforce the motif. In “Ghost Story,” a father tells a bedtime story about “the seal lady” to his young sons while waiting for his wife to return home after her nightly swim. The effects of a story being told on its listeners is more explicit in “Fable,” an eerie tale involving a fox and a dead child (“each scene, familiar and not, had emerged as though from some shrouded, timeless woods, taken physical shape on the table in front of them”). “Angus and Annabel” centers on two young siblings who grieve their dead mother. The younger one, Annabel, makes “poppets,” dolls with sticks and berries like their mother had taught them, an act that unsettles Angus as sparrows circle overhead. In the title story, an Antarctic expedition including children and dogs is stranded in ice near the South Pole, and those who survive are visited nightly by the skulls of those who died. Throughout, Rutherford conveys an organic, insidious creepiness. These fresh and provocative yarns are spun with craft of a high order. (Apr.)