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Dropped Threads 3: Beyond the Small Circle

by Marjorie Anderson, ed.

Despite the subtitle of this third in a series of collections of personal essays by Canadian women, Dropped Threads 3 rarely breaks away from a limited range of concerns and styles.

The first-person singular is omnipresent in the 35 reflections that make up the book, edited by Marjorie Anderson. With a few brilliant exceptions, the voices are very similar and unrelentingly centred on the “I” and the “my.” The contributors live for the most part in Ontario or B.C. (21 of 35 between the two provinces), with no one, French or English, from Quebec and only four from the Maritimes or Newfoundland, where a lot of exciting writing is being done. There are few recognizably non-European names either.

To be sure, some of this first-person writing is very good. Margaret Atwood puts on an old-lady persona and writes a funny piece about giving advice. Heather Mallick’s “The Inoculation” crackles with sharp observations like “sex is just awful until you either meet the right man or turn thirty – and it’s their fault, not yours.” In “The Bear Within,” Laurie Sarkadi tells of her encounters with a mother black bear and three cubs at a point in her life when she also had three small children. And Lorna Crozier combines cats and horses and memories of a Welsh grandfather to create a web of reflection that takes us beyond the moment to sensing “all things the wind startles into beauty.”

But the collection would have profited from, say, an essay by Anita Rau Badami (formerly of India and Alberta, she now lives in Montreal) or one by Stephanie Nolen, who reports from Africa for The Globe and Mail and who recently wrote a hymn to living in contemporary Johannesburg. Anderson says in her forward that Dropped Threads 3 is the result of a general call for submissions as well as invitations to certain writers. Future editions would do well to go farther afield to find essayists, subjects, and styles that better reflect the world of Canadian women today.