Small Victories

Jasmine Sealy

In “Skin Like Almonds,” a quiet, contemplative story about midway through You Can’t Stay Here, Jasmina Odor’s collection of short fiction (Thistledown Press), the narrator remarks, “We hadn’t quit trying to make things happen, but we saw clearly that there was a disconnect between what we strived for and what came for us.” This line is at the heart of the whole collection, populated by Croatian immigrants living in Canada and those who have stayed in their country. In “Ninety-Nine Percent of It,” a couple lives a confined life in a condo next to the freeway, each always unsure of how the other is feeling, both plagued by their doubts. They pass time in their cold apartment, never getting around to fixing the heat. In “The Time of the Apricots,” another couple sprints through the streets of Toronto until they are too exhausted to continue, their earlier argument now moot. When the characters do exercise agency, their victories are small, defiant and satisfying. In the title story, a young mother orders her visiting in-laws out of her home, saying, “You know what, I’m sorry, keep your coats on, you can’t stay here.” Odor’s characters are affected by serendipitous circumstances and make strange, non-sequitur decisions. They mishear, ignore, speak over and most often misunderstand each other, thickening narratives that are both dreamlike and grounded in the banal. These are stories of home, of loss, of love—and of the slippery surrealism that permeates everyday life.

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