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Whirl Away: Stories [Paperback]

Russell Wangersky
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 24 2012

Amazon.ca Editors' Pick: Best Books of 2012

Shortlisted for the 2012 Scotiabank Giller Prize

From critically acclaimed and award-winning writer, Russell Wangersky, comes a new collection of short fiction.

Everyone has something they’re good at: one particular personal skill that they use to keep their lives moving forward when their worlds suddenly become difficult or near-impossible. For some, it’s denial; for others, blunt pragmatism. Still others depend on an over-inflated view of self to keep criticism and doubt at bay.

In his new short story collection, Whirl Away, Russell Wangersky—author of critically-acclaimed fiction and non-fiction including The Glass Harmonica, Burning Down the House: Fighting Fires and Losing Myself and The Hour of Bad Decisions— looks at what happens when people’s personal coping skills go awry. These are people who discover their anchor-chain has broken: characters safe in the world of self-deception or even selfdelusion, forced to face the fact that their main line of defense has become their greatest weakness.

From the caretaker of a prairie amusement park to the lone occupant of a collapsing Newfoundland town, from a travelling sports drink marketer with a pressing need to get off the road to an elevator inspector who finds himself losing his marriage
while sensuously burying himself in the tastes and smells of the kitchen, these are people who spin wildly out of control, finding themselves in a new and different world.


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Review

Like Cheever or Munro, Russell Wangersky delves stealthily into disquieting corners of the domestic sphere, his stories dissecting lives when they are fracturing, lives at stress points, lives much like the roller coaster at the centre of McNally's Fair, an exciting and popular ride gleaming with fresh paint, but about to collapse from hidden rust and broken bolts.

With sympathy for both males and females, Whirl Away explores romance, disillusionment, money worries, infidelity, layoffs and tipping points, quiet conflicts like butter simmering on a stove and about to angrily turn colour and burn.
(Mark Anthony Jarman Globe and Mail)

Again and again the author revisits the idea of the invisible threat, of capricious catastrophe, of the fine, flickering balance between good and evil in human nature, and the folly of trust. (kerryoncanlit.wordpress.com)

...all at once brutal and gentle, funny and cruel, timely and timeless. (Joseph Boyden)

Whirl Away is a persuasive, artful collection and Wangersky portrays all manner of characters...with vividness and delicacy... (National Post)

The stories in Whirl Away provide ample evidence for anyone wanting to argue that literary short fiction remains stuck in a Chekhovian rut. (Quill & Quire)

...a very accomplished collection, with some very fine writing. (The Fiddlehead)

Tautly written, perfectly edited, sharply detailed...and cleverly imagined, these stories are some of the finest examples I've ever read of how short stories ought to be written. (bellasbookshelves.com)

With skillful and eerie verisimilitude, Wangersky places most of the protagonists in this new collection of short stories squarely inside the dark hearts of their respective occupations. The breadth of Wangersky's knowledge and research into different jobs is truly astounding and worth the price of the book alone. (freerangereading.blogspot.ca)

About the Author

Russell Wangersky's most recent book,The Glass Harmonica, won the 2010 BMO Winterset Award and was longlisted for the Relit Awards. His previous book, Burning Down the House: Fighting Fires and Losing Myself won Canada's largest non-fiction prize, the British Columbia National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction. Wangersky lives and works in St. John's, where he is an editor and columnist with the St. John's Telegram.


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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An insightful and highly worthwhile collection Sept. 4 2012
By sean s. TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Russell Wangersky is a writer based in Saint John's, Newfoundland. One of his earlier short story collections, The Hour of Bad Decisions, was a finalist for the Commonwealth Writer's Prize.

Whirl Away is a very appropriate name for this book, because it evokes what happens when a small but vital piece breaks, leading to what amounts to total system collapse. The piece in question may be physical/ material or psychological/ immaterial, but the result is the same: things fall apart.

Call it what you will: the `butterfly effect', `phase transition', the `tipping point', `entropy', or `the weakest link'. Wangersky adeptly explores limit states and the consequential, discontinuous changes that are triggered by small events.

In one short story, a rusty bolt needs only a fraction of a second to pry loose a secret that neither John's ex-wife nor current lover had succeeded in extracting.

In `Echo', five-year-old Kevin parrots some premonitory lines he overheard his father say to his mother:

"The dog looked around at the sound and stopped walking, but the man kept going, pulling the leash hard. The dog appeared startled when the collar suddenly dug into its neck. `Save it for someone who cares,' Kevin said to the dog. `Save it for someone who cares.' "

In his glowing review of Whirl Away in the National Post, Ross McKie observed that: "This is not to say that the literary landscape here is solely existential, that the `doer' is simply added, slapdash, to some pre-ordained unravelling of the deed, as Mr. Nietzsche proposes. But the intrigue in Wangersky's craft, indeed the joy in reading these stories, for all their unsettling premises, is in discovering how the protagonists choose to be with what the fates have handed them."

So overall an insightful and highly worthwhile collection !
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Janet Babins TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
When I began reading I found this book hard to get into, but I persevered. I had to reread the first story and when I did, I was in for a real treat.

There are twelve short stories in this book. These stories are about individuals, who are unhappy, have broken marriages and are living very ordinary lives. They are unable to cope with the stressors in their personal lives. Some people are in denial, some take to booze, others are too stubborn to work out their problems and others simply flee. As a result, their lives spin out of control and their world falls apart.

The first story titled Bolt is about a carpenter, who is leaving his lover and his ex-wife, who now wants him back, but he's moving on to a new job in Calgary. In his driveway, he notices a rusty bolt. He picks it up and throws it in his truck with the rest of his tools. He begins to drive, when suddenly the bolt becomes loose and spins out of control...

911 is a story about a Paramedic, who receives a call from a woman whose husband is not breathing. There is no one at the station, so he decides to go it alone. He knows very well that there should be two Paramedics on the scene. Without thinking, he is going to save a life and he does. After receiving help from a relative, the man is placed in the ambulance and the Paramedic is racing to the hospital to get the man the help he needs when...

You wonder what would've happened if... or what if...

These short stories give us a glimpse into the psyche of the people whose lives have gone in unexpected directions.

Russell Wangersky's Collection of stories titled Whirl Away is very well-written. The characters are believable and the stories hold your interest from beginning to end.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written stories Feb. 14 2013
By Zee
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Wangersky writes about real people, from their own sometimes very different perspectives. His writing is descriptive while spare. Most of the stories have a twist, and most felt sad. All enthralled me.
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