What The Word On The Street is Reading

This week Cailin is reading Mad Hope by Heather Birrell, published by Coach House Books in April. We are excited to announce that Heather will be reading at this year’s Festival in the Great Books Marquee! We are happy to be hosting her in 2012!

About the Book

In the stories of Mad Hope, Journey Prize winner Heather Birrell finds the heart of her characters and lets them lead us into worlds both recognizable and alarming. A science teacher and former doctor is forced to re-examine the role he played in Ceauşescu’s Romania after a student makes a shocking request; a tragic plane crash becomes the basis for a meditation on motherhood and its discontents; women in an online chat group share (and overshare) their anxieties and personal histories; and a chance encounter in a waiting room tests the ties that bind us.

Using precise, inventive language, Birrell creates astute and empathetic portraits of people we thought we knew – and deftly captures the lovely, maddening mess of being human.

Q & A with Cailin

1) What drew you to this book?

I love short stories, and the blurb comparisons to Alice Munro, Lisa Moore, and Zsuzsi Gartner seemed like a good sign. I’m also a sucker for an eye-catching book cover. The swarm of frogs did the trick in that department.

2) Did you enjoy reading it?

I enjoyed it so much that I became irrationally angry whenever I had to put it down at the end of streetcar ride. Mad Hope made me feel like Toronto’s traffic flow is too swift and efficient. That’s saying something.

I’m having trouble choosing a favourite story in the book, because each contains memorable characters and well-crafted turns of phrase.  I was particularly impressed by the way Birrell writes about teenagers in several of the stories. Being a high school English teacher has obviously given her insight into their voices and concerns. Mad Hope feels very authentic in that regard.

3) Would you recommend it?

I would, and I already have to several people! Mad Hope is beautifully written, and Birrell’s characters really resonated with me. My fellow short story lovers will be pretty happy to pick up this book.

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