I picked up this short story collection after reading Donoghue's novels Landing and Slammerkin. There are nineteen stories in this collection, grouped under the headings 'Babies', 'Domesticity', 'Strangers', 'Desire' and 'Death' - all certainly touchy subjects. There wasn't a story in the collection that I didn't enjoy although, of course, I had some favourites!
'Expecting' examines the way a lie to a stranger can spiral out of control. I particularly enjoyed the way this contained very little dialogue but I didn't notice until afterwards because it was so well written. That was the case in 'Good Deed' as well, when a man stops on the street when he suspects a homeless man might be seriously ill. In both of these, the narrative voice is strong enough to make dialogue redundant.
There are a couple of LGBT themed stories in the collection which I really enjoyed. 'The Cost of Things' is about a lesbian couple and their sick cat, while 'Team Men' looks at young man discovering his sexuality while on his father's football team. 'The Welcome' is another excellent story which I won't ruin for anyone.
My absolute favourite was probably 'WritOr'. It follows the unnamed writer-in-residence in his year-long role at a college. He has to deal with intimidating parents, students who mask their own life badly in fiction, poets who spew word vomit onto the page during a first draft and refuse to change a word of it. All sound familiar? I guarantee 'WritOr' will bring a smile to any writer's face.
All in all, I loved this collection. Short and snappy stories with distinctive voices and little jolts of surprise scattered throughout. If I didn't already adore Emma Donoghue's writing I'm sure this would've converted me.
I read this collection as part of the Library of Clean Reads 2012 Short Story Reading Challenge.