Author: Shane Joseph
Title: Fringe Dwellers: Stories of People Living on the Edge
ISBN: 978-1-897475-44-7 = 9781897475447 – Soft cover
Trade Paperback: 220 pages – 6 X 9
Suggested Retail (Paperback): $22.95
Genre: Fiction, Short Stories, Canadian
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Sid’s a war-hero and a bum, Gloria’s a beautiful luckless lover, Andrew’s a writer whose favourite haunt is the cemetery, and Julia is a priest with a dying congregation in a booming suburb. What have they in common? They are the Fringe Dwellers – people who once led normal lives until a sudden twist in the road sent them out onto the fringes of society.
And from the fringe they claw back meaning and redemption for their altered lives.
Why does Harry pretend that everything is normal when his whole life is falling apart? Or Professor Ram hunger for his attractive landlady while under an oath of celibacy? Or paralysed Nelly dread the touch of her brother; while Beatrice strips for her lover when he returns from his wife’s funeral? Are these people nuts? Or given their circumstances, would you have acted the same?
Find out, in these twelve touching stories of human endeavour against loss, circumstance and marginalization.
Daniel Clausen’s review
Twelve Different Interpretations of “Fringe”
One of the most surprising aspects of this excellent short story collection is its twelve different interpretations of “Fringe.” The title story—“Fringe Dwellers”—finds us in a very typical starting point: an immigrant family and father trying to find a way to make it in a new, unfamiliar land. However, the other stories relate to the “Fringe” in ways that are less than obvious. Several of the main characters of the stories are what we might call the privileged middle class. They have each some way found them self moving toward the fringe. In some cases, they are not quite there but are moving there in ways they struggle to grasp completely.
The other thing that sets these stories apart are the endings. If each is not quite “happy,” we can at least characterize most as “hopeful.” Endings that leave the reader with some kind of hope are always a little tricky. As one of my writing teachers once said, a happy ending always risks being sentimental. That the writer risks being sentimental with his material demonstrates just how much he cares for his characters and their situation.
I found that the gravity of the stories tended to vary from the very serious, to the melancholy, to some lighthearted affairs. The best stories for me were “Fringe Dwellers,” “Rage,” “Unattainable,” and “Let My People Stay.” All of the stories were crafted with great love, care, and sympathy for the subjects, but these stories clearly stood out from the rest. Each had surprises that I could not have anticipated, and each made me care about the characters in ways I will never forget.
I would recommend this book of short stories to anyone who loves well-crafted, compassionate short fiction.