In this debut story collection, Montreal-born Anita Anand attempts to explore the dark complexities of modern-day relationships. Employing different lengths (the title story is more than 60 pages long while others could be categorized as micro-fiction) and a variety of perspectives, Anand traverses the well-worn avenues of crumbling marriages, thwarted careers, familial rivalries, and stifled sexuality.
Unfortunately, Swing in the House struggles, for the most part, to infuse these common subjects with something new or interesting to say. While a couple of stories do show some promise – “Fruit, Nut, Reality” offers an interesting portrait of the sleazy coworker we have all encountered, and “Elephant Heart” has a potentially touching moment of generosity at its core – the vast majority of these pieces sputter under a series of problems.
The biggest is that Anand often fails to find a good narrative groove in which to execute her ideas or themes. She tends to place stock characters in familiar conflicts, and then resolve their issues with melodrama or a quick, obvious reversal. The title story offers a good example. Despite a few solid turns of phrase and descriptions, the story of Julie, suffocating under a loveless marriage and conducting an affair with her friend’s former lover, is overwritten and relies on the easy tension of an STD scare and a cancer death at the end. “The Perfect Guy” is as banal as its title, and concludes with a predictable point about how attractive someone’s flaws can actually be. “The Dare” contains an interesting premise – about a woman being goaded to leave her house with no clothes on – yet cannot connect the thematic dots by its end.
With the exception of some wooden dialogue and a few jarring scene transitions, Anand’s prose is competent. But it’s a competence that strains to mask shallowness and amateurish approaches to her obsessions. These are ideas that needed more time to germinate. This is a voice that needs more time to mature.