The Far Away Home
The anti-heroines in The Far Away Home are frequently misfits, eccentrics or outsiders, women who inhabit vast physical and emotional spaces and wrangle with existential crises, one foot firmly planted in the mundane. In “Pieces,” an awkward Jody reflects on her abortion, her best friend’s attempted castration, and how to deal with her fire-eating ex; in “Two Feet in Texas” the obese Pina wins the souls of her tormentors in a poker game as her pants split; in “Cold Sleep,” Caroline, the wife of an RCMP officer stationed in the North, tries to rouse herself from a permanent sleep to come to terms with her community and a place too limitless to understand.
What’s compelling about Denesiuk’s stories is the lyrical tension between the quotidian and the disturbing. She seamlessly juxtaposes the ridiculous and the macabre. “The Perfect Vacation,” for example, traces a balloon store owner’s growing sexual obsession with physically challenged people. On the surface, the story is light and amusing – an easy read – and yet there is no doubt that the enterprising woman at the centre of this narrative has become completely unhinged by the end of her vacation.
Denesiuk’s subtlety and empathy as a writer enable her to tackle grand themes like sex, death, home, and female subordination. To wit: most of the stories deal with women coping with gynecological problems or in sexually compromised positions. In “Insomnia,” sleepless Katherine, desperate for quick cash after leaving her boyfriend – who denied her the right to empty her bowels – tries her hand at prostitution. Half-asleep, and barely financially afloat, most of the women in this collection have had their wombs or bowels torn and tampered with; all are far from home and all find themselves alienated by their own sexuality, relationships, and bodies. These characters reflect the unromantic and often paradoxical quandary of modern womanhood. Cut loose from their families and their men, these women are at once freed by the failure of traditional male-female relationships and bound by their bodily urges.
What makes The Far Away Home successful is the disarming hope and beauty the author reveals in the overlooked and ‘unremarkable’ lives of these women. For while the world is often an indifferent and grotesque place for misfits of The Far Away Home, the sustained humanity that connects all the characters and stories makes this book a joy to read. As one character writes to another in a love letter, there are times connections fail, “like a toe, for example, meeting an ear with utter disinterest.” And yet there are also moments of recognition, moments when fingers cross and connect, when “[w]e are all of one mind, of one soul – reflections and variations of one another.” mRb