HELEN PEREIRA'S first published novel, Magpie in the Tower, was well received by critics who warmed to her ear for dialogue and the depth and humanity of her characters. These qualities are again in evidence in her new collection of linked short stories, The Home We Leave Behind (Killick, 152 pages, $11.95 paper), which also manifests a sure sense of narrative and the effective management of time and space.
These 12 stories follow the life of Annie MacDonald - energetic, quixotic, imaginative, and idiosyncratic - beginning with her childhood in rural British Columbia and an early (and failed ) marriage, and then to Toronto, a second marriage (this time into a more exotic culture), age, ill-health, and finally death.
Pereira's stories are well crafted and satisfying - especially those that deal with youth, young love, and the trials of parenthood - though less successful when she is dealing with Annie's declining years. She writes with generosity and understanding about family relationships, and her ear for dialogue and bursts of funny, unexpected observation are delightful. Annie lives on the page as a rich, complex, humane character; I would like her for a neighbour; I wish I could read more about her.