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Pocketmags Digital Magazines
Pocketmags Digital Magazines

Home and away

New story collections from Barry Dempster and Amanda Hale prove uneven

Tread & Other Stories

Barry Dempster

Tightrope Books

Angela of the Stones

Amanda Hale

Thistledown Press

EVERY NOW and then, a short story appears that manages, through the author’s sheer craft, to compress all the emotional and narrative heft of a novel into 15 or 20 pages. Alice Munro has built a legacy on being able to pull this off, as did Anton Chekhov. In his new collection, Tread & Other Stories, Barry Dempster manages a similarly impressive feat.

The tale is called “Jeffers,” a story so good it makes a reader wonder why it isn’t the title piece in the collection, or its opening salvo. “Jeffers” tells the story of Luke, a man who, following the death of his sister in a car crash, takes on the guardianship of his 13-year-old nephew, Jeffrey (nicknamed “Jeffers”). Jeffers has only a few months to live thanks to a rare form of blood cancer. As if this weren’t fraught enough, Luke’s wife, Leah, is halfway through a very difficult pregnancy, and his elderly father, with whom Luke has had a strained relationship all his life, is in the late stages of dementia.

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