Winner of the Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction and the CAA Emerging Writer Award, Barrelling Forward is a brilliantly crafted debut collection from one contemporary fiction’s newest literary star.
Eva Crocker sees life in sharper focus than the rest of us. The objects, rituals, and scenes of everyday life take on an almost mythic quality in these stories, even while remaining intimately recognizable to us all. Crocker peers at the underbelly of poverty and work, ambition and apathy, loneliness and love, to find the sliver of beauty in each spot. Nothing is ever as simple as it seems: the boundaries between friendship and sex dissolve; power relationships are turned on their heads, if only long enough to examine them from all angles; transgressions and escapes become new kinds of traps. In “Auditioning,” a young twin makes a desperate attempt to reclaim her individuality. In “Serving,” a father and a son give parallel accounts of what it looks like when you let life eat you from the inside out. In “Star of the Sea,” a man watches his past get literally torn down before his eyes. And in the Cuffer Prize-winning “Dead Skin,” an after-school walk through the barrens leaves two boys forever changed.
In stories that ache with longing even as they pulse with new possibilities, Crocker gives us an unforgettable array of ordinary people, sometimes soaring, sometimes sinking, but always, ultimately, barrelling forward towards what’s next.
About the author
Eva Crocker is the Associate Editor & Chief Staff Writer at the Overcast, an arts and culture paper in St. John’s. Her work has been published in Riddle Fence, the Newfoundland Quarterly, WORD Quarterly and the Telegram's Cuffer Anthology. Her short story collection Barrelling Forward was shortlisted for the NLCU Fresh Fish Award and the Dane Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ Emerging Writers. She has a master’s degree in English literature from Memorial University where she received the 2015 Medal For Excellence in Graduate Studies.
Excerpt: Barrelling Forward: Stories (by (author) Eva Crocker)
“Your mother thought you might like to have these for your new place.” Walt’s father had arrived unannounced, holding a set of pressed curtains in a grocery bag.
“You’re cooking,” his father said. Walt realized he’d brought the spatula to the door with him.
“Just breakfast.” Walt heard the shower shut off, the pipes stuttering in the wall.
“There’s someone here?”
“A friend. He’s helping me move.”
His father passed him the package, little beads of rain still on the bag. Walt’s father edged his way into the apartment as Walt stepped backwards to make room for him.
“New windows?” His father looked around in the living room.
“It’s renovated.” Walt skimmed a hand along the sharp hairs growing on his jawbone. He was aware of the heat spreading across his face.
“Good, it’s easier to keep a new place clean. We drove by and saw you didn’t have any curtains up and your mother thought you might like to have some.”
The door to the bathroom opened, the hall flooding with warm damp air and the smell of shampoo. Trent was wearing jeans and a t-shirt but his feet were bare. His hair was dripping, making dark circles on his shirt.
“Trent, this is my Dad.”
Trent took three steps down the hall and held out his hand. His feet leaving wet smudges on the floor. Walt’s back was against the closet door, which was made of thin strips of wood held together with a rubbery plastic. The door creaked against the weight of his body.
“I’m Trent.” Trent extended his hand. He was taller and broader than Walt’s father.
Suddenly, the apartment filled with a high-pitched bleating. At first it sounded like a bird but the louder it got the more mechanical it sounded. For a moment the three men stood staring at each other, paralyzed by the sound. Trent had dropped Walt’s father’s hand but they were still standing close enough to be touching. Walt held the curtains protectively against his chest. Trent’s dog barked on the back deck.
“It’s the fire alarm,” Trent said. “There’s something burning. Do you smell something burning?”
“It’s toast. I was making toast under the broiler,” Walt replied before darting out of the room.
Barrelling Forward, is a short-story collection unique for its diverse points of view … Crocker draws us in immediately … these brief pieces resonate with the reader for a long time.
Winnipeg Free Press
Suggesting Alice Munro is both high and lazy praise – an easy way to say well-set short fiction and a pretty future for Crocker in CanLit – but there’s a quality to this Newfoundland author’s work that fans of the Nobel Prize winner will recognize, if they’re willing to displace age, place and decoration accordingly. Where Munro so remarkably captures rural banality, Crocker taps a similarly enthralling mundanity in Quebec’s urban bustle and Eastern Canada’s could-be-anywhere suburban sprawls.
[A]n intimate and fascinating read.
A fine and enthralling collection that will excite and seduce readers.