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As My Sparks Fly Upward

Author: Matthew St. Amand
Genre: Fiction
Reviewed by Susan DiPlacido

As My Sparks Fly Upward, the debut from Canadian author Matthew St. Amand, is a collection of short stories rendered with such honesty that I questioned how much was fiction and how much was taken from his own life. This isn't a drawback or criticism of the collection, but rather a supreme compliment.

Throughout the book, St. Amand takes us on a journey not only through Windsor and Dublin, but through the lives – and hearts – of the people roaming these landscapes. He favors first person, which increases the psychic intensity and connection. And rather than concocting outlandish or bizarre plots, he plunges us deep into the minds of his characters who are often at a critical, everyday crossing point.

These seemingly ordinary situations and happenings carry a weight and levity; full-bodied, recognizable, and lovingly rendered with sympathetic appeal. There is no pretension here, none of the Eggers- like over-analyzing or ironic detachment to distance us from the characters. So, in "Best Man", when a best friend who's fully against the impeding wedding has to coax the groom out of his jitters and back down the aisle, the full range of emotion is captured. The appeal of this approach is clearly evident in other stories, such as the pitch-perfect "Hadley", where a near high-schooler meets a beautiful deaf girl in town for the summer. They'll capture your heart as surely as they capture each other's, and the heart-breaking honesty of their fates isn't backed down from, it's shown, and we understand, and then, some of us will recognize pieces of our own lives. He does takes risks and branch out to suspense. In "Under the Bridge" he builds a nerve-wracking story where quicksand sucks in the characters after a seemingly innocuous and innocent discovery.

As a writer, he shows a fearlessness to unveil emotions, and this leads to flashes of utter brilliance, such as in the title story. What could be a rollicking or overly-sentimental tale instead crystallizes into a marvelous celebration of remembrance. It's a stunning story, nestled amongst an overall vibrant collection.


July 11, 2004 in Mainstream | Permalink


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