Object of Your Love

by Dorothy Speak,
230 pages,
ISBN: 1895897726

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Brief reviews
by Anne Steacy

If you're feeling terrible, read the stories in Object of Your Love (Somerville House, 196 pages, $19.95 paper): you'll feel worse. But it will be an amazed, energizing, surly worse. You will loathe Dorothy Speak's array of enraged, impotent, scheming, wormy people sullenly clawing at their self-made cages; you will love the way she has captured them. And while you're glowering at the enormity of their pettiness and the banality of their cruelty, occasionally your soul will surge with the magnificence of the mural against which their tawdry human crises resolve themselves, for Speak has skewered her outlandish characters onto a powerfully painted panorama of the unforgiving Canadian landscape.

At times the device appears prosaic-rivers run eternally as seasons and people change-but Speak will then take a wry step further, sardonically acknowledging the baldness of her conceit, with an observation such as one in "Summer Sky: White Ship": "This is the kind of perfect, windless day that makes the sky seem deeper, the clouds more baroque, the daylight hours longer than anywhere else in the world. Anne wishes the river weren't such a picture because she knows it will fill Eric with a maudlin nostalgia."

It is that flat, caustic tone-combined with the sheer audacity of the characters as they seek to destroy one another-that makes them so maddeningly enjoyable. Speak's people are all objects, first of love, then of abhorrence. Mothers and daughters mirror each other in recalcitrant rage. Couples self-combust into glacial hatred. As a feminist statement, Object of Your Love is angry and bleak. Men are brutal, ineffectual, or infantile-still, they are often allowed to keep their pathetic dreams. The women, cold, practical, disconnected, are vengeful. Yet the reader is trapped with them all, incredulous at their insensitivity, gleeful at their nerve, touched by their perseverance, and perhaps saddened by a glimmer of self-recognition.

Anne Steacy


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