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Thirty-fourth Issue
Volume 14, No. 2
 




..where to find the mrb

The Mrb Is Available At The Following Locations:


features

Niko
By Eric Boodman

The Anatomy Of Clay
By Abby Paige

They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children / Mobilizing The Will To Intervene: Leadership To Prevent Mass Atrocities
By Aparna Sanyal


fiction

Bats Or Swallows
Reviewed by Taylor Tower

Lives: Whole And Otherwise
Reviewed by Rosel Kim

Midway
Reviewed by Kimberly Bourgeois

Spat The Dummy
Reviewed by Ian McGillis

The Obituary
Reviewed by Anna Leventhal

Three Deaths
Reviewed by Rob Sherren



non-fiction

Bad Animals: A Father’s Accidental Education In Autism
Reviewed by Leila Marshy

Making Waves: The Continuing Portuguese Adventure
Reviewed by Joni Dufour

The Republic Of Therapy
Reviewed by Sarah Fletcher

Writing In The Time Of Nationalism: From Two Solitudes To Blue Metropolis
Reviewed by Gregory J. Reid

You Could Lose An Eye: My First 80 Years In Montreal
Reviewed by Joel Yanofsky


non-fiction at a glance

Eeyou Istchee: Land Of The Cree/terre Des Cris
Reviewed by Carol Katz

The Origin Of A Person
Reviewed by Prosenjit Dey Chaudhury



poetry

Blood Is Blood
Reviewed by Bert Almon

Hard Feelings
Reviewed by Bert Almon

Poets And Killers
Reviewed by Bert Almon

Song Of The Taxidermist
Reviewed by Bert Almon

The Collected Books Of Artie Gold
Reviewed by Bert Almon

The Truth Of Houses
Reviewed by Bert Almon

Where We Might Have Been
Reviewed by Bert Almon


the mile end café

The October Crisis, 1970 An Insider’s View/trudeau's Darkest Hour, War Measures In Time Of Peace, October 1970
Reviewed by Mélanie Grondin


the mrb cartoon

Image By Jean-philippe Marcotte


young readers

Captured: The Divided Realms Series, Book 1
Reviewed by Andrea Belcham

Into The Mist: The Story Of The Empress Of Ireland
Reviewed by Andrea Belcham

Milo: Sticky Notes And Brain Freeze
Reviewed by Andrea Belcham

Noni Says No
Reviewed by Andrea Belcham

Raffi’s New Friend
Reviewed by Andrea Belcham

Scaredy Squirrel Has A Birthday Party
Reviewed by Andrea Belcham

Today, Maybe
Reviewed by Andrea Belcham

Without You
Reviewed by Andrea Belcham




Bats Or Swallows
Teri Vlassopoulos
$16.95
paper 144 pp.
Invisible Publishing ISBN 9781926743073
fiction

Bats or Swallows
Post-Adolescent Purgatory

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New Document The characters in Teri Vlassopoulos’s debut short story collection, Bats or Swallows, are trying to make sense of themselves and the world. Many are in that purgatory between adolescence and adulthood, when the security of childhood erodes and the ugly complexities of the self and human experience are revealed. Using signs, symbols, and other tools of the occult – a secret handshake, a palm reading, psychic powers – they seek meaningful human connections and the comfort in knowing there is a higher power governing their fates.

In “Swimming Lessons,” a young woman struggles to come to terms with the drowning death of her father when she was a little girl. Moving from Toronto to Montreal for school, she meets a young man whose little sister died when he was sixteen. She falls in love with their shared tragedy, looking for solace in her infatuation with him. Vlassopoulos’s voice carries a sweet, palpable honesty, peppering the story with lines that tickle the heart. “His hair in my hand curled just like a Fibonacci spiral,” the main character observes, “the kind of perfection you only find in nature.”

Fun facts about mathematics, science, the black arts, and secret societies are woven into every story, adding a richness and depth to the characters, a smooth and controlled pacing, and a distinct originality to the storytelling. In “The Occult,” a young woman’s failed relationship is told in the form of six numbered vignettes under the headings Palm Reading, Astrology, Extra-Sensory Perception, Exorcism, Prophecies, and Signs. Each vignette is a small piece of the puzzle, revealing the innocent beginning and devastating end of a summer fling. In “Baby Teeth,” a woman abandoned by her mother in the woods as a child overcomes her trauma by embracing the rumours that she was raised by wolves. “A Secret Handshake” depicts a younger sister trying to bond with an increasingly distant adolescent brother by creating a secret handshake modelled after those of the Freemasons.

It is this whimsical and charmingly naïve tone that makes these stories easy to read and their moments of depth sometimes surprising. Vlassopoulos began as a writer by creating zines, those photocopied quasi-diaries defined by their heart-on-sleeve quality. While this influence has infused her writing with a delicate simplicity, she sometimes gives in to the urge to tell rather than show, wrapping up her character’s feelings or thoughts too neatly or dissecting metaphors until there’s no meat left. The voice is a young one and, although strong, it tends to make the few adult characters seem like caricatures.

But the strength of this debut collection far outshines its small imperfections. Stories like “Art History,” “What You Want and What You Need,” and “Bats or Swallows” are carefully crafted portraits of life with endearing characters the reader can stand behind. A work of literary fiction, this collection would also resonate with teens and young adults, who might see parallels between them- selves and the young protagonists. Vlassopoulos has found a way to carry over the wide-eyed curiosity and innate goodness of childhood into the mysterious, often sad, often tragic world of adulthood. The confidence in the voice, the originality of style and the achingly beautiful images are evidence of greatness to come from this engaging young writer.

Taylor Tower is a freelance writer and public relations professional living in Montreal.