Home Schooling: Stories

Home Schooling: Stories

by Carol Windley
     
 

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"Set in the temperate rain forests of coastal Vancouver Island and the vibrant cities of the Pacific Northwest, the stories in Home Schooling uncover the hidden freight and complexity of family life." In these stories, families dissolve and reform in new and startling configurations: ghosts appear, the past intrudes and overwhelms the present, familiar terrain… See more details below

Overview

"Set in the temperate rain forests of coastal Vancouver Island and the vibrant cities of the Pacific Northwest, the stories in Home Schooling uncover the hidden freight and complexity of family life." In these stories, families dissolve and reform in new and startling configurations: ghosts appear, the past intrudes and overwhelms the present, familiar terrain takes on hostile aspects, and happiness often depends on unlikely alliances.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Peopled by a handful of vulnerable yet resilient creative types, among them poets, musicians, teachers and artists, Canadian author Windley's accomplished story collection focuses on the domestic scene, examining how family, lovers and neighbors leave their indelible marks. Mostly centered on or near Vancouver Island, Windley's cagey moments of conflict deftly illuminate her narrators' capacity for both pettiness and grace. In "The Joy of Life," Alex finds herself living in the shadow of her best friend Dsire's idyllic life, but chances picking up the pieces when Dsire begins drifting from her husband and child. "Felt Skies" features a woman looking back on her connections with her strict mother and with her first adult lover, a much older man. Marisa of "Children's Games" moves into her lover's house and struggles to relate to his disagreeable, unpredictable son. Despite an abundance of similarly middle-class, introverted female characters, Windley keeps readers' attention with a fast pace and an eye for fresh details that make her efficient, achingly human dramas absorbing and sympathetic. (Feb.)

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Library Journal

Set against the idyllic backdrop of Vancouver Island and the bustling cityscape of Seattle, these eight short stories from Canadian author Windley (Breathing Under Water) will delight the reader with their understated prose. Whether it's the burden of a childhood secret, family crisis, romantic entanglement, or immortality and death, Windley spares us the exaggerated emotions those situations often provoke and unhurriedly disentangles the characters' hidden guilt, fears, and resentment. The result is a thoughtful analysis of the process of living and the need to make choices even when one sometimes suffers because of them. Her narrative, usually fragmental, often shifting in time, and with references to fairy tales, nursery rhymes, poetry, novels and films, adds a childlike yet intellectual dimension to the stories. Occasional quotes from philosophers such as Camus and Nietzsche stimulate deeper exploration into the characters' psyches. The stories in this anthology will remind one of an Atom Egoyan screenplay that switches between the past and the present while philosophically contemplating the issues of existence and human relationships. Reading Windley can be a mesmerizing experience; recommended for public and academic libraries.
—Victor Or

Kirkus Reviews
Eight elegant short stories by Canadian novelist Windley (Breathing Underwater, 1998, etc.) plumb the themes of loss, memory and the desire to belong. Disappointment is the norm for the clear-eyed, quietly intelligent protagonists. In "Home Schooling," 17-year-old Annabel lives with her family in a desolate abandoned boarding school on a remote Canadian island; her father had been headmaster until a student's accidental drowning led to the school's closing. Annabel is sleeping with a college student she's identified as her "likeliest means of rescue," but then she learns that he's in love with her younger sister. "Children's Games" chronicles the discomfort of a restless young woman who moves into the home of her boyfriend, a single dad, and finds it still filled with the belongings of his ex-wife. In "Felt Skies," a fledgling copywriter who grew up without a father gets involved with a hard-drinking, much older journalist, to the chagrin of her loving mother. "The Joy of Life" follows Alex as she accompanies her glamorous best friend Desiree to an artist's retreat in Wales. She winds up babysitting Desiree's young daughter Loren while mom carries on with a local poet, a fraught situation further complicated by the fact that Alex secretly covets her friend's husband back at home. Alex isn't the only character who leaves most of her feelings unaddressed. In the haunting opening piece, "What Saffi Knows," the eponymous heroine recalls her childhood some 40 years earlier, when she may have been the sole witness to an unspeakable act she could not recognize at the time as a crime. With nary a false or clumsy sentence, Windley demonstrates an effortless understanding of complex human naturethat invites obvious comparisons to her gifted compatriot Alice Munro. This slim volume gives every indication that they are warranted. Beautifully crafted and devoid of sentimentality. Agent: Marc Cote/Cormorant Books
From the Publisher
“Language is wielded like a slender blade in these stories by the Canadian author Carol Windley, swiftly piercing a perception and pinning it to the page. . . . Set on Vancouver Island and the mainland of the Pacific Northwest, these stories have their own uncanny atmosphere, remote yet familiar, cloaked in fogbanks and redolent of deep woods. . . . In the shattering piece that opens the collection, a child observes a crime occurring in excruciating slow motion but does nothing to stop it because she cannot assemble the reality of what she has seen, a nightmare scenario that artfully chills us to the bone.”—Boston Globe

“The families in Carol Windley’s remarkable story collection are as unsettled and moody as the wind-blasted landscape that shelters and confounds them. . . . [Windley] is deeply in tune with her characters, their dilemmas, their petulance, and the peculiar grace that allows them to accept, even sometimes to applaud, how far they've come. . . . Windley can create an almost tactile atmosphere of uncertainty and dread. . . . Our futures can be as wild and unpredictable as the waves crashing in from the Pacific, Windley tells us. Our destinies are uncertain despite our pasts, as our ties to other people steer a course of surprise and, sometimes, eventual contentment. . . . A haunting book that deserves our attention.”—The Miami Herald

“[An] elegant collection . . . Windley’s writing is calm and at times hypnotic, and her prose rhythms paint pictures of their own; she knows how to create the restful quiet of gentle waves breaking on a beach. And her images, often occurring in the context of dreams, can be startlingly lovely.”—The Seattle Times

“Hints of Henry James inform the eight stories in Canadian writer Carol Windley’s American debut, Home Schooling. Like that earlier master, Windley pays scrupulous attention to small, consequential gestures, to a sense of the uncanny that marks the proximity of characters to places and things, and as much to what goes unsaid as to what’s spoken. Her tales emit moments of sudden radiance that unmask narrative mysteries while wrapping them ever more tightly around their outcomes. . . . . The opening lines of the astonishing title story are a high-wire act of narrative prestidigitation, mimicking the fault lines of memory and the compensatory gift of reinvention. . . . . [A] book of pure magic.”—Elle

“Mesmerizing . . . [Windley’s] characters are Chekhovian idealists and dreamers, refugees from the counterculture or from broken homes, actual and psychological orphans trying to reform themselves into new kinds of families . . . [and] what elevates [Windley] as a writer is her struggle to find a meaning in [those] characters’ fates, to discover their moral essence and, sometimes, even a magical truth.”—B&N.com

“Windley’s characters in Home Schooling are burdened and shaped by their secrets, so much so that they often fail to travel well through daily life. The landscape of the Northwest where Windley lives—that transparent air and those watchful dark trees—provides the perfect setting for these incandescent stories. . . . Here, even the mystery of life’s slow, sure passing provides action to move a plot forward.”—Los Angeles Times

“Events violent and unhinged frequently hover at the edge of many of Carol Windley’s stories in her elegant new collection, Home Schooling. Characters frequently find themselves preoccupied by the darker things in life—people leaving, people dying, betrayals, and secrets. . . . The characters peopling Windley’s tales are only too aware of the volatility of life; and yet, at the center of their personal stories is resiliency. . . . Captivating . . . She calls attention to the tenuous, fragile nature of existence, and yet also casts into relief the beauty of people’s efforts to stave off the darkest of events and fears, whether through action or inaction. . . . With her vivid prose and insightful characterizations, Windley has written an exceptional collection of stories.”—Bookslut

“Eight elegant short stories . . . [that] plumb the themes of loss, memory, and the desire to belong. . . . With nary a false or clumsy sentence, Windley demonstrates an effortless understanding of complex human nature that invites obvious comparisons . . . to Alice Munro. The slim volume gives every indication that they are warranted. Beautifully crafted and devoid of sentimentality.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Moving back and forth in time, Windley zeros in on life-changing moments witnessed in different ways, as if seen through different lenses. A provocative collection from a writer in complete sync with her characters.”—Booklist

“[Home Schooling] will delight the reader with its understated prose. Whether it's the burden of a childhood secret, family crisis, romantic entanglement, or immortality and death, Windley spares us the exaggerated emotions those situations often provoke and unhurriedly disentangles the characters' hidden guilt, fears, and resentment. The result is a thoughtful analysis of the process of living and the need to make choices even when one sometimes suffers because of them. . . . [A] philosophical contemplation [of] the issues of existence and human relationships. . . . A mesmerizing experience.”—Library Journal

“[An] accomplished story collection . . . Windley’s cagey moments of conflict deftly illuminate her narrators’ capacities for both pettiness and grace. . . . [Written] with a fast pace and an eye for fresh details that make her efficient, achingly human dramas absorbing and sympathetic.”—Publishers Weekly

“Carol Windley’s writing has a unique power, a perfect combination of delicacy, intensity, and fearless imagination.”—Alice Munro

"Home Schooling is a collection of beautiful, haunting stories—intelligent, heartfelt and true.”—Alice Hoffman

“Carol Windley's short stories are impossible to put down. The scope of the subject matter is riveting: the world of the artist, the complexities of family relationships and the innocence of childhood are written with a sure and deft hand. The characters are distinct and unforgettable, drawn with deep emotional roots, while the places they inhabit are described with wonder and truth. Moment by moment, Ms. Windley has written a masterful collection.”—Adriana Trigiani

“[Home Schooling] is as delicate as it is intelligent. . . . An exceptional collection of beautiful words and resonant insights. Every single story is worthy of reading, and once read, returned to, whether for ambiance or intelligence of thought or language. Windley’s gift with narrative and images gives truly inspired meaning to the phrase ‘creative writing.’”—The Globe and Mail

“Compelling, thought-provoking, emotionally rich . . . a powerful illustration of the storyteller’s art.”—National Post

Home Schooling is a beautiful collection, full of sensitivity and utterly devoid of slick sentimentality. The stories are painstakingly realistic, conveying many facets of the family experience. . . . Windley’s fluid, yet precise style captures the essence of the characters and their situations with immense grace.”—The Vancouver Sun

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780871139948
Publisher:
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
02/03/2009
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Carol Windley is the author of the story collection Visible Light--which won the Bumbershoot/Weyerhauser Publication Award and was nominated for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize and the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction—and the acclaimed novel Breathing Underwater.

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