A woman becomes obsessed with a story about her family from 1890—when a naked, mute girl stumbled onto their property—and whether or not it really happened. A self-help guru and his chief strategist take their most affluent and unstable clients on a harrowing nature hike that destroys their company. A young convict in a prison creative writing class chronicles the rise and fall of his cellblock's resident peacemaker. A rural neighbourhood becomes obsessed by the coming of a strange and powerful new homeowner who is in the middle of reinventing herself.
The stories of Use Your Imagination! are about stories, about the way we define and give shape to ourselves through all kinds of narratives, true or not. In seven long stories, Kris Bertin examines the complex labyrinth of lies, delusions, compromise, and fabrication that makes up our personal history and mythology. Sometimes funny, strange, or frightening, these stories represent Bertin's follow-up to his critically acclaimed, award-winning debut, Bad Things Happen.
"The human condition is a profoundly bizarre one, and in Use Your Imagination! Kris Bertin's characters grapple with what it is to be broken yet hopeful, happy but not quite happy enough, to attain a state of grace one moment too late—in essence, the simple vexations of being human—in stories that are wise, funny, heartbreaking, and most of all, feel achingly true." —Craig Davidson, author of The Saturday Night Ghost Club and Cataract City
"Reading Use Your Imagination!, I had the impression that Kris Bertin had written into the origins of human cruelty—which isn't to say this book is a grim read. Its darkness is matched by equal moments of heart and laughter. Every story is written with an honesty and tenderness that demands the reader lean closer. Pay attention, and you will glimpse the affinity between love and torment, and the characters who have taken root in this seam." —Eliza Robertson, Commonwealth Short Story-winning author of Demi-Gods and Wallflowers
"Kris Bertin's Use Your Imagination is propulsive, taut, tough and emotionally charged; full of charismatic characters who are hungry for money, power, and love, or even just to be liked; they are desperate for all the things they can almost get their hands on but can't quite touch. The people here suffer beautifully crafted, disturbing downfalls; they are viciously smart, vulnerable, breathtakingly hardened; they are trusting and innocent; they are betrayed—sometimes all at once! Bertin is a wickedly masterful writer—these stories tantalize and enthrall." —Lisa Moore, Giller Prize-longlisted author of Something for Everyone
"These narratives draw readers in, making them emotionally complicit in the events and their responses to them. It's a unique and often devastating approach." —Quill and Quire, Starred Review (Toronto, ON)