The Pain Tree
by Olive Senior
Publication Date: Sep 26, 2015
List Price: $22.95
Format: Paperback, 320 pages
Imprint: Cormorant Books
Publisher: Cormorant Books
Parent Company: Cormorant Books
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From the author of Dancing Lessons, Finalist for the 2012 Amazon.ca First Novel Award and Finalist for the 2012 Commonwealth Writers Prize, comes an unforgettable collection of short stories. Olive Senior’s new collection of stories - The Pain Tree - is wide-ranging in scope, time period, theme, locale and voice. Her characteristic ‘gossipy voice’ is present in many of the stories, but as well there is reverence, wit and wisdom, along with satire, humour and even farce. The stories range over almost a hundred years, from around the time of the second world war to the present. Like her earlier stories, Jamaica is the setting but the range of characters presented are universally recognisable as people in crisis or on the cusp of transformation.
While most of the stories operate within a realist mode, Senior in this collection is also exploiting traditional motifs, so we have collected here revenge stories (“The Goodness of my Heart”), a bargain with the Devil (“Boxed-in”), a Cinderella story (“The Country Cousin”), a magical realist interpretation of African spiritual beliefs (“Flying”) and a narrator’s belated acceptance of the healing power of traditional beliefs (“The Pain Tree”). “Coal” is a realist story set in the war years and depression that followed as folks try to find a new place in the world. Senior’s trademark children awakening to self-awareness and to the hypocracy of adults are here too, from the heartbreaking “Moonlight” and “Silent” to the girls in “Lollipop” and “A Father Like That” who learn to confront loneliness and vulnerability with attitude.
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