by Linda Biasotto
Sweet Life is a collection of short fictions which not only entertain but dramatize in alarming clarity, the issues of lives on the edge.
The characters, which range from preschool to elderly, live anywhere from Vancouver Island to northern Italy. Children struggle with family problems; lonely women make determined but not always wise decisions about love; men and women struggle against the twin enemies of grief and trauma.
Linda Biasotto convincingly exposes soft underbellies, whether of a teenage boy dealing with events he can't shake ("Sweet Life") or a middle-aged Italian woman determined to keep her crazed brother from wrecking her marriage chances ("The Bells of San Martino"). The ironically humourous story, "Paradise Hotel," exposes the spiteful remains of cold love, while elderly Mrs. Kravitz ("Mrs. Kravitz's Mood") may have met her match when her neighbour finagles his way into her kitchen. A father is grateful for a second chance to warn his daughter about the fallout of her decision in "What You Should Know." The unloved Cristina in "The Virgin in the Grotto" justifies her gruesome plan, as do the young brothers in "Doves." When trauma slams into Naomi, she struggles to maintain self-control ("Impact"), while elderly Anna ("The Marble Nymph") not only fears her young visitor's questions, she fears her own answers. Widowed Angie in "That Buchanan Woman," is faced with the challenges of independence. In "Suspension," a middle-aged man is frozen between the past and the future. "Glass Garden," which reads like a whodunit, sizzles with brittle energy. "The Madwoman Upstairs" describes two weeks that are both poignant and funny.
Despite these fraught circumstances, Sweet Life also uses humour to infuse these stories with compassion, lighting the way to warmth and tenderness.
*Coteau Books has made Sweet Life available in alternate formats in cooperation with NNELS.