Tuesday 19 April 2011

Better Living Through Plastic Explosives by Zsuzsi Gartner

Published by Hamish Hamilton an imprint of Penguin Group Canada

Better Living Through Plastic Explosives offers the reader a glimpse into numerous lives. Slowly peeling back the layers of each existence until a sometimes brutal, sometimes funny, often quirky and always riveting story forms within the pages. A wartime photographer, angel-possessed teens, rebellious adopted children, terrorist turned housewife, and movie industry folk are just some of the colourful characters that Zsuzsi Gartner skillfully writes into being.

I love short story collections so I was thrilled to see this title land in my mailbox. The title piqued my curiosity almost immediately but I waited until I was certain I could read this with little interruption. I am so glad I did. Once I picked this book up, it was difficult to put down and everything around me ceased to exist as I dived into the pages. The writing style is truly eloquent and painted such vivid imagery in my mind as I explored each piece. What I really found unique about this book is that each story has a quality that never fails to tease and stimulate the intellect. Once upon a time, I would likely have considered these stories to be lacking, to be needing a little more 'fleshing out' so to speak, but today I find myself truly appreciating that they inspire me to give more thought to the characters and their experiences.

I was asked at one point, which story was my favourite and I had selected the story 'Once, We Were Swedes' in which a wife mourns the loss of intimacy within her marriage. I had also answered that I suspected I would have problems choosing favourite tales by the end of the book and I was not disappointed. There are so many and each is brilliant in its own way though I definitely place 'Summer of the Flesh Eater', 'The Adopted Chinese Daughters' Rebellion', 'We Come in Peace', and of course 'Better Living Through Plastic Explosives' a little higher above the rest. What I loved a great deal about this book too, is the stories strike me as being able to stand up to repeated reading. I can't help but feel that due to the previously mentioned inspirational quality, I could read this book time and again, and not suffer any loss of enjoyment.

I hadn't heard of this British Columbia based author until now but I was thrilled to see that Zsuzsi Gartner also wrote a collection of stories titled 'All the Anxious Girls on Earth'. A collection that I know will be a welcome addition to my bookcases in the near future. Not since Norman Levine have I felt so drawn to a story collection. It's simply dynamite (Yes, I can hear the groans from here! *laughs*)

I haven't checked out other reviews of this book yet (I always avoid looking until my own is written) but I am looking forward to checking out what other people think and will be most curious to see what my fellow blog tour participants think. I know that Bibliomania reviewed this on the 18th April and you can find that review here. Other stops on the tour are In The Next Room - April 21st here, and Bella's Bookshelves - April 26 here.

Additional reviews can be found at Reading for the Joy of it and Pickle Me This

Don't forget to check out the author's website at http://www.zsuzsigartner.com/

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