cover image The Old World and Other Stories

The Old World and Other Stories

Cary Fagan. Astoria (PGW, U.S. dist.; UTP, Canadian dist.), $15.95 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-1-4870-0146-9

Fagan (A Bird’s Eye) uses 35 black-and-white photographs from the early 1900s through the 1950s to inspire a series of enchanting short stories of astonishing breadth. “Many years ago the photographs in this book became separated from their original owners, faces unrecognized, settings a mystery... I have given them stories to replace the ones they lost,” Fagan explains. Those stories are not simple nostalgia. Fagan leaves plenty of room for mystery and surprises. The title story focuses on a photograph of two young African-American children in an elegant home. When the story opens the children are not allowed to go outside due to “a disturbance” no one will explain to them. Kathy tells a story to her bored brother, Raymond, about living in a grand house in the country with horses and a carriage. Readers are left to speculate about whether the story is a true memory or a fanciful escape from reality. “Rosie” at first seems to be merely a story of a lost love, but a twist takes it many levels deeper. In “The Traveller,” a piano teacher copes with a toxic marriage by practicing out-of-body “travel.” Readers will be transported and wish for more. (Oct.)