All the Voices Cry, by Alice Petersen (Biblioasis, 2012) 158 pp., $27.00.
Short story collections are notoriously difficult to review. There is no requirement on the author’s part to create links from one story to another, or to explore themes that, broadly speaking, bind the parts together to make a whole. Sometimes the only connecting link is the elusive authorial voice, elusive because the better the writer, the more likely it is that each story will be a universe ‘entire of itself’.
New Zealand-born Alice Petersen’s debut collection, All the Voices Cry, announces itself early on as something of a gift to the reviewer. The authorial voice, far from being elusive, is sharply, poetically present. This is not to suggest that the stories are in any way diminished, though some undoubtedly succeed better than others. What makes this collection so easy (in the best sense of the word) to read, is the author’s passionate relationship with the woods, lakes and rivers of her adopted Canada: to be precise, the hinterland of Montreal. In story after story what comes off the page is her sense of the overwhelming presence of the natural world, and the ways in which human beings interact with it, for better or worse.