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Habits and Love

by Rod Schumacher

Many of the characters in Habits and Love, Alberta writer Rod Schumacher’s first collection of stories, are caught deep in the web of their own lives, trying to think and feel their way out to other possibilities. In “Happy,” an inarticulate man struggles with large questions, while in “Driving Home,” a young couple who have lost a child try to escape from the seemingly endless cycles of grief.

Although the book tackles some worthwhile themes, Schumacher’s thinly sketched characters tend to sag under the weight of a heavy-handed style. Schumacher too often explains details that readers can figure out for themselves, and though his writing often achieves a high level of clarity, he still resorts to obvious expressions like “a nose for trouble” and “a regular ambassador of joy.” The above mentioned “Driving Home” especially suffers from this lack of subtlety. The grieved young couple scream at the doctors, scream at God, and then scream at each other, but since the reader doesn’t care about the characters, we’re left with only the obvious idea that grief can be terrible and ongoing.

There are effective moments throughout the collection. “Boys and Arrows” features a handful of boys firing an arrow into the air straight up, then staring at each other, silently daring each other to be the first to break and run before it comes down. “Scars” follows a man as he returns home for his father’s funeral. He doesn’t see the casket as much as feel its weight, “tilting the floor like the deck of a ship.” In these more successful stories, the characters do more than just haul an obvious theme or idea into the light.


Reviewer: Alex Boyd

Publisher: Insomniac Press


Price: $19.95

Page Count: 190 pp

Format: Paper

ISBN: 1-894663-16-0

Released: May

Issue Date: 2002-7

Categories: Fiction: Short