In her latest collection of stories, Janice Galloway turns her unflinching gaze on relationships: the struggle to love against the odds, the overpowering yearning to communicate, and the extraordinary epiphanies where the World falls away leaving only the lovers. Love is, of course, where you find it, and it is here in an evening walk across a London bridge, a chip-shop pizza, Derek's mouth, or ham sandwiches cut into hearts. A brilliant observer of human frailty and tenderness, Janice Galloway examines the moments where lives split like a stone, where people are healed or broken by a word or the touch of a hand. Savagely accurate, vivid and unsentimental, these are painstakingly crafted stories: engaging, caustic, funny and terrifyingly true.
This absorbing new collection of 20 stories (after Bloodand Foreign Parts)explores relationships and fears in contemporary Glasgow. Each story offers a different perspective on the quiet desperation of the trapped, but the complex characters stubbornly resist the mold of victims. Even the six-year-old girl in "Someone Had To," brutally abused by her uncle, does not cry out; she responds to his torments with an unblinking stare. In "The Bridge," Fiona overcomes the frantic warnings in her head and stands up to an artist she adores. Galloway imbues her stories with a lurking malevolence, and her characters' defeats could perhaps be attributed to their fears. "Test" opens with a woman awakening to "the crackle of someone unwrapping a claw hammer. A length of cable. Cheese wire." With a combination of relief and disgust, she realizes that a discarded sandwich tray made the sound, but the sense of an unnamed threat relentlessly pervades the story and the collection as a whole. In several of these tales, Galloway departs from the bleak realities of Glasgow housing estates and presents a more surreal vision. In "After the Rains," the sun comes out for the first time in nine months and people literally blossom: the florist turns into a garden; the greengrocer watches a cabbage "foresting the front of his overalls." Galloway's deft prose calmly stretches reality but avoids a descent into the ridiculous, an impressive testament to her talent and versatility.