Part mystery, part elegy, This Side of Sad begins with an ending: the violent enigma of a man's death. Was it an accident, or did James commit suicide? In the shattering aftermath, his widow, Maslen, questions her own capacity for love and undertakes a painful self-inquiry, examining the history of her heart and tracing the fault lines of her own fragile identity. What emerges is a mesmerizing tour of a woman's complex past, rendered in the associative logic of memory and desire.
A gifted storyteller reminiscent of Alice Munro or Joan Didion, Karen Smythe finds poetic complexity in the seeming trivialities of the ordinary. Meditative, philosophical, and confessional, This Side of Sad is a provocative and piercing novel that explores the disintegration of a marriage; the enduring colloquy between the living and the dead; and the meaning we find within the random architecture of despair and joy.