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Fiction Literary

The Running Trees


by (author) Amber McMillan

Goose Lane Editions
Initial publish date
Sep 2021
Literary, Short Stories (single author), Black Humor
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2021
    List Price

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Finalist, New Brunswick Book Award (Fiction) and Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction
A striking original, deftly humorous collection of stories that considers the quest for truth: how we come to it or alternatively avoid it.

A fervently comic debut, The Running Trees leads readers into a series of conversations — through phonelines, acts in a play, and a rewound recording of a police interrogation — to reveal characters in fumbling bouts of brutality, reflection, isolation, and love.

The relationship between two siblings disintegrates after one asks the other for the pen; a professor and his former student get drinks years after a "romantic" encounter; a book club meets only to find that they have wildly different opinions about a new memoir about their town; and a long-haired feline contemplates existence and consciousness while his cohabitant licks his own butthole.

Whimsical, unconventional, humorous, and always pitch-perfect, The Running Trees explores how we desperately try to communicate with each other amid the gaps in meaning we create.

About the author


  • Short-listed, New Brunswick Book Award (Fiction)
  • Short-listed, Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction
  • Unknown, On CBC Books' list of 65 Canadian works of fiction to watch for in fall 2021

Editorial Reviews

“An anthology of unique stories that ... delve into the chaotic, tangled aspects of imperfect yet quintessentially human characters. A brisk read that lingers long in the memory, The Running Trees is highly recommended.”

<i>Midwest Book Review</i>

“McMillan catches characters in the act of being themselves, to sometimes comic effect, wrestling with the deeper meaning behind everyday dramas.”

CBC News

“Amber McMillan calls the stories in her debut collection ‘conversations’ and presents them in a variety of formats ... and approach that enables her to probe the inherently imperfect nature of conversation and communication across media.”

<i>Quill and Quire</i>

“Energetic, often hilarious, and endlessly surprising. Reading this collection feels like eavesdropping on a series of engrossing conversations. McMillan skillfully inhabits the voices of this cast of characters, in situations that range from the suspenseful and unsettling to the deliciously absurd. The people in this book are flawed and human, prickly and curious, and remarkably distinct. Through their questions, complaints, arguments, and apologies, The Running Trees explores the intricacies of human interaction, and the difference between what we say and what we mean.”

Shashi Bhat, author of <i>The Most Precious Substance on Earth</i>

“Piercingly sharp and spare, beautifully touching. Amber McMillian’s characters are sometimes vulnerable, sometimes sly, sometimes in love, or betrayed by love, wry, witty, or wonderfully funny. Some are very sophisticated cats. These elegant conversations are charged with that magical, mercurial quicksilver — the human voice. Stories that hit the ear drum and head straight to the heart. Joyfully experimental.”

Lisa Moore, author of <i>Something for Everyone</i>

“McMillan’s 15 ‘conversations’ plunge the reader into slices of life as disparate as a cat trying to convince a fellow there are indeed ‘running trees.’”

<i>Oakville News</i>

“A rare kind formal experimentation — overheard dialogue, speculative lists, metaphysical zingers, short fiction so natural it feels transcribed from a voice memo. Rare because you just can’t read fast enough to keep up with the appetite it stimulates. The first read is a binge, but the second is an addiction.”

Tony Burgess, author of <i>The n-Body Problem</i>

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