By Emma Donoghue
Little, Brown & Company
Short Story Collection
What a disappointment. I gave high marks to a previous book by this author, Room, reviewed here. I suppose I expected something along the same writing style with the clever twists one normally finds in short story collections. Instead, the author provides an assortment of stories with a somewhat historical relationship, but I never really felt like the tie-in made much sense.
A synopsis of the book I read before adding it to my queue indicated the stories would all be related to some kind of travel. But the theme was really more about people immigrating or living somewhere that was not their place of birth.
None of the stories was really all that interesting, in and of themselves. I did think the last story in the collection, called "What Remains", was at least somewhat well-written and had some heart to it. But many of the other stories carried a kind of "ick" factor that was hard for me to ignore.
The only really interesting thing about this collection, in my opinion, was the slight historic twist in each of the stories. The author took a little-known fact, based off historic letters or newspaper accounts, and wrapped a fictional story around that small piece of history. Sometimes it worked, other times it seemed extremely contrived.
I didn't really care for most of these stories. Nearly all of them had some sort of deviant, disturbing or sexual piece to them that was really the only "twist" in the story at all. The first story in the collection called "Man and Boy" details an incident regarding an elephant that is sold from one circus to another and the weirdly loving relationship between the elephant and his caretaker. Another story, "Daddy's Girl" tells about a young woman dealing with her father's death, further complicated by the fact that upon his death it was discovered her father was a woman.
Nor did I think any of the stories really gave us anything useful or heartfelt to take away from them, with the possible exception of "What Remains". I kind of felt like I wasted a lot of valuable reading time getting through Astray.
Going to have to say that I really don't recommend this one.