K.D. Miller has published three previous collections of short stories, as well as a novel and a book of essays about the connection between spirituality and creativity. Her fiction has been included in the Journey Prize anthology and Best Canadian Short Stories. She brings the wisdom and deft touch of a seasoned expert to her new collection.
All Saints is an intricate series of stories, each of which has a connection, however loose, to the Anglican congregation of All Saints church, which is on the brink of extinction. The stories with the strongest link are about Simon, a widowed rector who has survived his depressed wife and now finds himself attracted to one of his parishioners. Other entries, such as linked stories about a woman who teaches creative writing in the church’s basement, have a more tenuous relationship to the eponymous setting. A few of the stories have no apparent connection to All Saints, but Miller is a subtle writer who rewards careful readers. With each story, All Saints gains momentum, until it begins to feel very much like a novel.
The collection is as much about eroticism and love as it is about religion and spirituality. In the second story, Simon reflects that nobody at the seminary ever taught him “how erotically charged the confessional can be.”
The stories also portray the flipside of love, featuring characters who are lonely, alienated, or ostracized. “Kim’s Game,” for example, is about a peculiar man named Owen James. His unfortunate egg-like appearance earns him the university nickname “Ovoid,” but he dreams of his alter ego, a famous poet he calls James Owen. The real Owen James, however, cannot hold his own at a weekend writing retreat. The other aspiring writers mock him, and his alienation is so extreme that nobody even notices when he goes missing and suffers near tragedy and absolute humiliation. Here, and elsewhere, Miller exposes human frailty and vulnerability to an uncomfortable degree. Her characters are complex, ambivalent, inconsistent, flawed, and tragically human.
Like Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, Miller’s new book walks the line between novel and linked stories, reshaping each genre in the process. All Saints is the work of a writer with a confident voice and a clear vision.