Donoghue Drifts Astray

By Emma Donoghue

Little, Brown and Company 25.99 288 pages

Emma Donoghue follows up her award-winning novel Room with a collection of short stories, most previously published in various journals. In Astray, Donoghue focuses on migrants, inspired by true historical people and events spanning between years 1639 and 1967. The settings include England, the Atlantic, and various towns in the United States and Canada. Donoghue experiments with a variety of characters that travel whether by choice or by force. There is always a hopeful, resilient undertone.

“Good, what does that mean to a two-year-old whose every natural urge is to poke, to grab, to take the world in her fists and shake the secrets out of it?”

Readers can imagine these stories are Donoghue’s way of filling in the missing pieces as she reads fascinating old letters, news articles and passages about these mothers, daughters, fathers, sons, mercenaries, criminals, gold hunters, slaves, lawyers and lovers. Regardless of the point of view or the half-hearted attempt to mimic the regional vernacular, a pattern emerges that makes the stories repetitive and somewhat predictable with implausible dialogue and scenes that never fully come to life without adequate sights, sounds, smells, tastes and sensations. Unfortunately, in these instances, real life is not only stranger than fiction, but also more entertaining.

Reviewed By Sarah Hutchins

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