Lost Boy and Other Stories
Edited by Estelle Tang
Margaret River Press
This anthology edited by Estelle Tang is a collection of stories submitted to the annual Margaret River Short Story Competition. The competition attracts both emerging and established short story writers, some of who have won local, national and international awards or have been published in The Best Australian Stories, and in journals such as Overland, Southerly, Island and Griffith Review.
We live in the world. But how that world manifests for each of us is different—utterly dependent on circumstances. The people we are born to know and the places we are born to see fix us in their sights, and that’s it. That’s where our stories come from. The stories here are all charged with a human affinity that reaches through the page.
Of these worlds, we might note how geography shapes them, and so heed the callous colonialism of mid twentieth-century Sri Lanka, as seen in Michelle Wright’s ‘To Call Things by Their Right Name’, or note the different kinds of mystery Australian visitors to Laos might find, as Beverley Lello evokes in ‘Scenes from a Disappearance’. Other stories are circumscribed by the strictures and saving graces of family, which can create such specific, affecting universes. Take the child narrator of Rosemary Allen’s ‘What Has to Be Done’, whose observations unwittingly create rents in the fabric of her familial life. And while the bizarre behaviour of a lost man in Susan McCreery’s ‘The Uninvited’ alienates and frightens us, his understanding of parenthood humanises him once more.
We’re guided to still smaller spheres elsewhere in the collection: think of the atmosphere that produces its own pull between two people in conversation, as in Jeannie Haughton’s ‘Weight-Bearing Exercise’, or a girl communing with such an elemental force as the weather, which we witness in Cassie Hamer’s ‘Glory Season’.
Such a diverse and interesting collection of short stories that are destined to make you think; some will prick at your conscience, some will make you nod your head in agreement and some will make you smile.
The first story, which is the winner of this year’s Margaret River Short Story Prize, Lost Boy by Melanie Napthine is intense and will leave you contemplating the society we live in where children/the childlike, are at still at great risk…This is a story that stayed with me long after I turned the page. Eva Lomski’s The Trapper evoked so many feelings; the trauma and consequences of domestic/family violence has not diminished with time and with the education of the greater population, this story leaves me enraged and saddened. Greater change is needed. More support is needed for the survivors.
Michelle Wright’s To Call Things By Their Name transported me to a time and place that is firmly implanted in my memory, a time when we worked overseas– in Sri Lanka. And though we lived in Colombo in the mid 1990’s, a time of turmoil and domestic terrorism, the landscape – physical, economical and hierarchical had not changed a great deal from that in this narrative –perhaps the cities were bigger, the traffic more congested, the towns more populated but traditions and values largely unchanged. Again a different time but such a familiar story.
Carol McDowall, the winner of the Southwest Prize injected lightness and humour into this collection with her short story, Bringing Home the Ashes (which, by the way is not about cricket). Hope and a feeling of solidarity came from others in this collection.
This collection of short stores will touch you and certainly make you think and that I think is the strength of the short story – the ability to evoke feelings, memories and responses and perhaps more questions?