Thursday, October 23, 2014

Shawn Syms

Nothing Looks Familiar
by Shawn Syms
Arsenal, 2014

Eleven strong, tender short stories that follow the contours of the every day, including sending out shockwaves of the unexpected, which, after all, is part of every day.

Put another way, there is much in Nothing Looks Familiar that is familiar. These are not stories that strain towards oddness. If anything, they are comfortable in their normalcy, until suddenly they're not.

Syms has a plainspoken style and a painterly eye for detail. The reader is easily placed in each scene and is connected well to every character. Motivation is never a mystery.

These are stories warm of heart that eschew cynicism, but neither are they shy or "safe." Portraits of our contemporary world, these stories help us face ourselves and feel alive. Here and now.

Did I have a favorite? Maybe "Family Circus" - a mother of young children is scheming how to escape her drug den / ID stealing household ... Okay, not so "normal", but the narrative voice is calm, cool, collected. All goes to hell, but the kids end up alright, which was all the mother wanted. A happy ending, but an unfamiliar one. It's really quite brilliant. Bravo.

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