The problem with short stories is that more often than not there are some that you will like more than others. This belief leads to an unfair overall evaluation and a less likely realization of a glowing review for the book. By choosing short stories as their preferred medium, maybe the author deserves what they get; that is until you read a collection where every story stands strong on their own. With A Crack In The Wall their are common themes linking one story to the next with the facts of life and the human condition transitioning to them all. There is also a strong sense of home within the lines of the stores in all its glory and possible fractures. The majority of the stories deal with some of the common issues facing the elderly from the macro year-to-year perspective and the micro day-to-day perspective. Predominantly stories associated with the elderly are quite depressing and/or extremely boring. Regression of skills, games memory can play, coping with loss are bitter realities that have to be confronted. Their are also uplifting tales involving older folks which were more prevalent in A Crack in the Wall such as:
1)A woman reclaiming her life rather than being trapped in an empty nest,
2)Helping a young neglectful parent realize the power that the loss/love of a child can have,
3)Taking a risk in spite of a possible holdover in a jail cell,
4)Lack of a loved one’s support when it comes to arguments with others,
5)The reappearance of a feline friend and the re-emergence of life’s pleasures,
6)One friend wanting to alter the status-quo of their relationship after a nasty divorce,
7)The mismanagement of a woman’s last will & testament and the hilarity that ensues,and
8)The selling of the family home with a helping hand, because like a good neighbour
Philomena is always there.
The stories that are not elder-centric involve other ordinary events, involving common ordinary people with extraordinary feeling:
1)A child trying to cope with school while having a learning disability,
2)A chance encounter with a precocious friend from childhood,
3)Embracing adolescence while maintaining a hold on childhood,
4)The self-imposed confinement and the unconscious realities of a kleptomaniac,
5)A childhood dream of being a part of a family finally becomes an adult reality.
You could find issue with the fact that the author did not take a risk and embrace Canada’s multiculturalism or social class distinctions. She really didn’t seem to go out of her comfort zone with these stories. She did discuss the conflicts with German immigrants, but the stories seemed a little too old fashioned, Caucasian, “suburbia” to justify a rave review. With that minor issue stated I liked all the stories in the anthology. My favourite character was Moira from the first story “A Practical Woman”, her courage and determination was astounding. It’s not that she is bedridden and near-death; she is merely on the cusp of retirement, empty-nester, divorcee, so essentially a youngster. It is her ability to stick to her guns and make a challenging decision for a chance at reigniting the fleeting passion in her life. The one page short story “Stitches” packed a heavy punch and left me fulfilled like I never imagined a one page story could.
I recommend this book to people that enjoy the stories that life can bring and the repercussions either positive or negative that come with them.