Bill Gaston’s characteristic keen insight and wit dazzle in this new collection. Here, we see the world through the prism of unfamiliar perspectives: a bank executive whose excellent sex life might in fact be killing her, an amorous tree surgeon better attuned to the values of his “patients” than to other people, a vacationing schizophrenic wary of his housemates, a pizza-delivery boy convinced he’s witnessed magic—all struggling with the world as they see it.
This versatile collection—at times darkly playful, absurd, or shockingly real—illustrates how we can fail to understand the simplest of truths and how we are trapped by the peculiarities of our own points of view.
In Gaston’s hands, the outlandish becomes comprehensible and everyday life begins to look strange. What unifies these stories and their characters is the underlying faith in the humanity of even the most dangerously misguided among us.
Brazenly entertaining, but just as often heartbreaking, Juliet Was a Surprise portrays the humour and unfairness of life through the blunders of quixotic men and women with whom we can’t help but sympathize.
Gaston, recipient of the 2003 Timothy Findley Prize, will thrill readers with suspense, peculiarity and carnage in his latest short fiction collection. The book's title is derived from the third story, "Any Forest Seen from Orbit." Reminiscent of D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover, the narrator and protagonist, a sexually inadequate average-looking arborist, is hired to uproot a deodara cedar obstructing a sewage pipe in the yard of Troy and Juliet Prudhomme, and is quickly seduced by Juliet. Jack Davies, a divorced executive, is at the center of "Four Corners." He has been dating Cheryl for six months but is ambiguously resentful about the relationship. He prepares to end the relationship at an upscale Italian restaurant only to discover that she has invited her father to meet him that night. In the compilation's first story, "House Clowns," a retired professor rents a cottage in Kamloops, B.C. to fish and reflect but is startled to arrive and find a young couple already there claiming to have rented the same cottage. Suspecting the couple's intentions, he plans to gain the upper hand while fishing with them in a canoe. Gaston interweaves erotic fantasies, male sexual inadequacy, female magical sensuality and utterly unforeseeable aggression.