cover image The Islands: Stories

The Islands: Stories

Dionne Irving. Catapult, $16.95 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-1-64622-066-3

The characters in Irving’s penetrating collection (after the novel Quint), many of whom are Jamaican Canadians, navigate the persistent hurdles of their family relationships as they attempt to build new lives while reckoning with the past. In “Waking Life,” Jamaican Canadian travel writer Po meets her Jamaican British mother, Janice, for the first time since early childhood, and her mother’s uncompromising independence fuels Po’s hope of keeping alive her own fragile romantic relationship. In “Canal,” a Jamaican Panamanian Canadian woman, Pilar, travels to Panama from Canada to settle her childhood maid’s affairs, realizing only as an adult that it was her maid’s history as a Holocaust survivor that shaped the fierce protection she gave Pilar during the 1965 riots that led to her family’s emigration. “It is hard to be the last one left,” Pilar thinks. Throughout, and in lucid prose, Irving depicts her characters’ chilly shocks over unexpected gaps in intimacy with their loved ones as they work to fit into non-immigrant Black spaces, making for stories that are both class-conscious and richly atmospheric. Irving’s inviting combination of subjects and style heralds a welcome new voice. Agent: Paul Lucas, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Nov.)