Many of the characters who inhabit B.C. writer Marguerite Pigeon’s first short-story collection live at the edges and extremes, set adrift in some way from their homes and travelling toward the unknown. Themes of escape, isolation, transition, and self-doubt pervade these 14 brief stories, creating a unified tone in a collection of otherwise diverse tales.
“Endurance,” one of the more polished offerings, tells the story of Anick, an extreme racer, who battles the Alaskan climate and tormented thoughts about her estranged lover on her way to the finish line. A fellow racer’s physical and mental breakdown threatens to impede Anick’s progress and undermine her dogged determination to place in the top three.
Also on the run are Giselle in “Slag,” Sheridan in “Torera,” and Mélanie in “Backup.” All three are compelled – for different reasons and to varying degrees of success – to flee their unsatisfying small-town lives by boarding buses and planes, embarking on solo journeys to new cities and experiences. Conversely, in “No Power,” Nicole finds herself stranded in midtown Toronto during a power outage, wanting more than anything to return home. As she attempts to do so on foot, the familiar streets of her city begin to take on a new complexion.
“Makeover” and “The Woman on the Move” form two highlights in the collection, in part by virtue of their incongruity with the rest of the stories. In the clever and haunting “Makeover,” a woman comes face to face with her “other me” – a different version of what her life might have been. “The Woman on the Move” is a quirky and satirical account of a woman obsessed with being in perpetual motion, until the death of her father slows her down.
While there is a certain predictability in Pigeon’s plots, the suggestion of a narrative formula can easily be forgiven, as each story reveals a peculiar and unique world peopled by genuinely interesting inhabitants. Some Extremely Boring Drives holds the promise of great future work from this writer.