alexandra leggat's first collec-tion of short stories is as crisp, graceful and unsettling as an Alex Colville painting. The prose within Pull Gently, Tear Here is quiet, but it's not a peaceful silence. It's the kind that tells you something is just about to explode.
Leggat writes about male/female, mother/child and stranger/stranger relationships that are plagued by nostalgia, regret and resentment. She keeps her readers teetering on the edge of sentimentality without allowing them to topple too far over into it. The strength of this collection lies precisely in her ability to capture those so-painful-you-just-have-to-laugh moments -- chillingly.
Standing over Sartre and De Beauvoir's graves, one protagonist tries to understand why strong women don't always extract themselves from undeserving lovers.
In another story, the narrator remains aloof while a needy stranger reveals that her son has died. Then there's the priest who falls asleep in the middle of a confession, and a public suicide by a trapeze artist. Each tale is passionately centred on the theme of dispassionate liaisons.
Readers who like traditional story-telling where action propels the plot might be frustrated, but those open to finding a lifetime within the emotions of a moment will not be disappointed.
These stories are perfect both for the reader who craves multiple meanings and for the transit commuter who needs the whole story between work and home.
Pull Gently, Tear Here is a well-sequenced, well-crafted first collection from a writer who knows how to dig into the minutiae of our lives and find gold.