Format: Trade Paperback, 240 pages
Publisher: Emblem Editions
ISBN: 978-0-7710-4128-0 (0-7710-4128-4)
Pub Date: December 30, 2008
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Fresh, tough, and thoroughly addictive, this sparkling debut collection calls to mind the beloved and bestselling works of Lisa Moore, Camilla Gibb, and Mark Haddon.
With an irresistible combination of playfulness and empathy, these effervescent, sometimes heartbreaking tales of underachieving adults, unfairly burdened children, and the unaccountably hopeful of all ages explore the moments of grace in lives that are too often defined by loss.
A punky young woman comes to terms with the accident that took away all of her family except the grandmother who believes she is a bird, and an aging prospector — a woman — discovers that a physical “curse” might have been something of a blessing all along. “The Indian Act” is a compact coming-of-age story, charting the journey of a boy who, though bounced through many foster homes, holds on to the dream of love and unconditional acceptance; and in the novella “River Rising,” three generations in a small town struggle toward joy despite the accidents of fate and the foolish mistakes that almost, but not quite, derail their lives.
Fierce introduces Hannah Holborn as a shining new light in Canadian fiction.
In Fierce, orphaned children share page space with flying grandmothers, and hermaphrodite prospectors have plaques that read, “When God made the Scots, He made them a wee bit better.” This incongruity is for good reason: tragedy and comedy are familiar territory.
I blame my twisted sense of humour on the man who fathered me for four of my childhood years and has continued to do so through my adulthood. His child-rearing techniques included exposure to Monty Python and Benny Hill; food fights; and word-play, largely with corny puns. Birthdays are celebrated with a song that includes the lines, “People dying everywhere; pain and sorrow, and despair. Happy birthday!”
The tragedy comes from the usual places — family, sex, walking down the street in broad daylight, dreams.
Tom in River Rising, for instance, came to me in a nightmare. What I remember now of the dream-Tom was his intense yearning for a long-gone home and the sense of being absolutely lost. We Danced Without Strings, however originated in real life. It is a love letter to an adult friend with Angelman’s Syndrome. As did The Fierce with the Fierce — I nursed Dulcey’s prototype on her death-bed. Though not a hermaphrodite or a prospector, the real Dulcey was tough enough to be the latter, so I set her imagined story in the Yukon, where I lived for a short time.
The act of ugly cruising was an invention of youthful angst. In my early twenties, my girlfriends and myself made ourselves hideous with theatrical make-up, then cruised the streets looking for boys at which to scream, “Hey, baby. Wanna get lucky?” We were single and mad at the boys for not adoring us. In Ugly Cruising Cricket’s motivation is far less shallow.
Simple memories such as a heart-sick drunk walking the breaking Yukon River, bead rooms, canoe races, a sway-backed horse roaming the streets of Dawson City, and a northern ghost town all made their way into the collection — as did a first love run down by a drunk driver, suicidal urges, and my mother’s early death.
All of my characters stole a bit of me, but River got the most. We love our men and children with a ferocity that is never quite enough, but is always the very best we can do. We never lie, but aren’t always believable. We screw up often. And, although it is counterintuitive, we are optimists who prefer to think rainbow not deluge.
“Like Elizabeth Hay’s Late Nights on Air, Fierce benefits from its largely northern setting, a still under-explored back road in Canadian fiction. . . . Penetrating and smart and a welcome antidote to the current vogue for alleged family values. . . . Treat yourself to its unique mix of irreverence, compassion and horse laughs. And then pass it along to a loved one.”
— National Post
“As strong a first collection as we have any right to hope. . . . Holborn repeatedly demonstrates her skill in handling utterly disparate, and wholly unique, characters in surprising, and often surprisingly effective, ways. . . . River Rising, the novella that rounds out the book [is] a painful, often funny, bitingly realistic yet archly surreal story [that] seems to burst at the seams with life.”
— Edmonton Journal
“[Fierce has] a bracing farcical edge that could hardly be blacker. . . . Holborn’s double high-wire act leaps effortlessly between funny and tragic. . . . [Her] visuals are cinematic.”
— The Globe and Mail
“The best stories . . . embody whole worlds. Such is true of the tough tales in Fierce. . . . The sassy grit of her characters and their tenacious humour — wry, raw, even twisted — get them through. Now and then, naked emotion pierces through their stubborn wit, like a shard of glass.”
— Montreal Gazette
“Holborn’s collection of stories is electric with wit and insight. Sassy, sexy, full of willful women, nasty business, a few freaks, some drunks, acts of adultery and abandonment, the voice of God and veins of gold. It’s fierce.”
— Lisa Moore, author of Alligator and Open
“Holborn, a gutsy writer from British Columbia, fills the pages of her latest collection with . . . one-of-a-kind characters, in stories that run the gamut from unfortunately heartbreaking to unaccountably hopeful.”
— Canadian Living
About this Author
The influence of Hannah Holborn’s various parents — foster and otherwise — has lent her fiction a unique blend of British humour, Slavic melancholy, naturalism, and First Nations sensibility. She has taught life skills to aboriginal women, inner-city youth, and the mentally ill, and her prize-winning stories have appeared in numerous journals including, Room of One’s Own and Front and Centre. She is writing a novel in Gibsons, British Columbia.
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