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Keeling, Nora.

Ottawa, Oberon Press, c1985. 109pp, paper, ISBN 0-88750-563-5 (cloth) $21.95, 0-88750-564-3 (paper) $11.95.

Reviewed by Sharon A. McLennan McCue

Volume 13 Number 5
1985 September

One of the great joys of today's renaissance of the Canadian short story is that we are adding books like Chasing Her Own Tail to our literature bank. In the days when short stories were less fashionable, little books like this one might not have been published and our literature would be the less for it. This is Nora Keeling's second collection of stories (the first was The Driver) and she has shown a certain courage in assembling it.

There is courage in this writing because Keeling has chosen to deal with characters who are not particularly likeable. They are women who, for the most part, live on their own and we know why. They are selfish and self-serving and make no apologies for it. In the beginning, such characters can cause the reader difficulties as we want to like these women with whom we are becoming involved but they will give us no opportunity.

This unsympathetic portrayal of the women is carried throughout the book. The only real departure from this position is in "Berthilde's Holiday", the second last story. It is a classic tale of displacement, as the psychologists would call it. The male character accidently killed a boy many years before and badly as he feels, the boy's mother will not let him forget what he did. He takes his feelings of frustration and guilt out on his dog. The happy ending is almost formula-like, but even here Bertie seems to care as much for the dog as she does for the man, and despite the classic womanly nurturing behaviour she displays toward both man and beast, one feels that she nurtures neither at the expense of self.

We all come in contact with characters like the ones in these stories, but, for the most part, we choose to disregard them. Nora Keeling draws us into their lives with her readable style and forces us to look. We may not like what we see, but that we are the richer for having seen is undeniable.

Sharon A. McLennan McCue, James Bay Eeyou School, James Bay, Que.
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