The nine stories that comprise Toronto writer Lana Pesch’s debut collection veer between piercing and playful, sinister and sentimental. Things begin rather meekly with the title story, about a serendipitous first date that is almost sickly sweet (“She marvels at the two of them now, together like this … and allows the wonder of it all to rest silently in her heart”). This is followed by “Deffer’s Last Dance,” which awkwardly mixes the grotesquely absurd – a ghost that shits hairballs – with the tragic story of a fatherless young man dealing with a beloved uncle’s imminent death.
In the remaining seven stories, however, Pesch skilfully explores both the dangerous and tender aspects of human interaction. She has a knack for creating authentic, fully realized characters that readers may regret parting with at the end of each story. The collection’s longest entry, “Brotherhood,” about a love triangle and suicide pact gone awry, is also the darkest and most stylistically complex. The narrative moves backward in time and then springs forward again, pinballing the reader chronologically and through the perspectives of multiple characters.
Pesch’s writing is sharp and fresh, full of offbeat yet fitting descriptions and inspired similes. In “Landing Area,” a painter struggles to visually render “air so fresh it could kill you.” In “Chewing Slower is a Sign of Mindfulness,” a woman reconsidering her marriage goes for a walk in the woods where “tall, leafless trees [speak] their own language.” Earlier in the same story, her husband’s laugh is described as sounding “like an empty cardboard box landing on the floor.”
The final two stories, “Faster Miles an Hour,” about a young woman’s roadtrip of sexual and emotional awakening, and “Landing Area,” which ends with a breathtaking moment of intimacy following a plane crash on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast, are particularly strong. With a few exceptions, Moving Parts offers a rich and satisfying mélange of stories and characters. The book resembles the collection of shells Astrid holds in her hand at the end of “Brotherhood”: “Some were intact, others cracked and broken.”