In 13 unaffected, intricately linked stories, Theis explores the evolution of family life in a place where most are content to forgo deeper change for the imminent prospect of “cement sidewalks” or “asphalt on Main Street.”This book accomplishes the uncommon feat for linked story collections of building a non-linear narrative that doesn’t feel like it might better have been a novel.
“Powers of Sight” opens the collection with an evocative coming-of-age tale, nicely balanced between innocence and an ominous courting of disaster.
Theis shifts assuredly between points of view. Hard Frost presents a self-contained tale of a young woman tied to her grumpy, disabled father…. The next story takes us inside her wheelchair-bound dad, and the sour complainer evolves into a man grappling touchingly with loss and shame.
– Globe and Mail
Leona Theis is an economical prairie writer whose lean prose exactly suits her just-folks characters and rural setting of Flat Hill. In spare language, Ms. Theis explores the stark emotional terrain of long-married couples who try but don’t quite succeed in connecting. When young thieves attack Lillian and Howard in their home in What We Are Left With, Lillian knows she and Howard “will argue this latest thing through as they always do. And when they are done arguing their life will be the same mix of irritations and anger and public embarrassment it has been for years. The same mix of uncertainty and shared small rituals and the little ripple she still feels inside when he comes up behind her at the sink and lifts her hair as if they were still young.”
– Ottawa Citizen
… a whole, intelligent and perceptive portrait of intimacy, distance, competing longings and the sometimes-small impingements on each other’s lives of people who know both a great deal and not enough about each other. A smoothly written and clear-sighted work.
– Judges’ comments, Saskatchewan Book Awards
Theis knows this territory thoroughly, like the children in Homemade Maps, who bury treasure and then create “official records” to help them locate it again. And there’s plenty of treasure to be unearthed. Theis’s stories have a modest, somewhat diffident tone … yet passion runs just below the surface.
These stories are worth reading, separately or as a whole. The writing is clear, elegant, subtle, quirky and surprising.
– Malahat Review
Theis has no agenda, hidden or otherwise; rather, she is an acute observer of both human nature and natural life. … Throughout the book, the reader is faced with the contradictory nature of truth, a collision of conflicting realities that lends a Blakean quality to the work. Theis skillfully illuminates those small moments of grace when, either through deliberate rebellion against convention, an accident of fate, or an assertion of courage, people have the capacity to change their lives.
– Event (Douglas College Review)
… the intermingling of individuals of all ages, types and classes creates that special small-town ambience. It’s an atmosphere that at times seems intolerant, yet it envelops its citizens in the security of a sense of belonging. This is an exceptionally insightful collection. Theis’s spare, clean writing style is a treat.
– Western People
The motivations in these stories are the ones shared by all: love, hate, fear, ambition, the need to belong. Theis describes these lives in spare, highly accessible prose.
– The Star-Phoenix (Saskatoon)