A Certain Grace – Binnie Brennan

30 Apr

In the tradition of short story writers Alice Munro and Carol Shields, Binnie Brennan examines the minutiae of ordinary life. During a tipsy night out escaping the frustrations of daily routines, two middle-aged school teachers try their luck at scoring a joint. A long-haul trucker drives an injured butterfly to its breeding ground in Florida, giving them both a much-needed migration. And while struggling with the death of her ex-husband, a single mother questions her place in her family’s lives. A Certain Grace is richly told in spare prose and woven with vignettes of a much-loved grandfather’s life. 

Binnie Brennan’s pitch-perfect stories chart with a musician’s precision the beats between tenderness and cruelty, between innocence and understanding, in the gulf between what we long for and what is. Centred on the rifts between partner and partner, parents and children, acquaintances and strangers, they hover on the cusp of loss and the quiet deliverance of words themselves, to pinpoint the moment, brimming with possibility, when everything changes. 

— Carol Bruneau, author of Glass Voices

I met Binnie last September and bought her first collection, Harbour View, from her at Word on the Street. I pretty much bought it because Binnie is one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met and I love supporting local authors.  And if you’ve read my review of Harbour View, then you know I fell in love with Binnie’s writing and imagination. So I was a happy little booknerd when Quattro Books sent me her latest book, A Certain Grace.

The stories in A Certain Grace are wonderful little snippets of people and of life, in general. I think my favorite thing about this collection is that most of the stories don’t end. Well, they obviously end, but there isn’t a lot of closure. Things aren’t wrapped up all nice and neat.  They are truly snippets. Kinda like going to a cafe by yourself and eavesdropping in on the tables around you. You get some beginnings, some middles and maybe some ends, but usually not all three. And that’s how Binnie’s stories are. And it made me happy, guys. So happy. I loved that I didn’t know how things ended. I could imagine what happened next, play around with endings on my own. I find that I often gravitate towards this writing style. I know it ticks some people off, but for me it’s wonderful.

Something else that’s wonderful is the Five Miniatures at the end of the collection. I loved the tone and voice of these mini stories and they were written in such a personal manner that they seem like diary entries or memories.

A Certain Grace was just a lovely collection of short stories. I enjoyed them all.


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