The Other Side of Youth is the first book by Torontonian Kelli Deeth since her well-received 2001 debut collection, The Girl Without Anyone. The 11 stories in Deeth’s new collection explore similar territory: fractured families and the struggle for contentment. Each entry is a fleeting yet revelatory glimpse into the life of a young woman – or girl awkwardly crossing over the threshold into adulthood – but these are not so much female stories as tales that are fundamentally about relationships: how characters connect or, more frequently, fail to connect.
Parenting is The Other Side of Youth’s consistent thread. There are backstories featuring absent, ineffectual, or cruel parents, and Deeth’s protagonists continually tussle with the complexities of pregnancy: one suffers a miscarriage, another undergoes an abortion, a woman and her partner try to deal with her decision to not have children, and yet another is unable to find the happiness she anticipated would come her way when she became pregnant. Deeth’s precise yet evocative prose subtly conveys a world of meaning in each vignette.
There are dramatic moments, most notably when a gun is pointed in the face of a teenage girl. For the most part, however, these stories are propelled by awkward conversations and uncomfortable silences that reveal the drama roiling beneath the surface. They are presented with a deft naturalism reminding us that such flawed interactions often make up life’s most profound drama.
Each story in The Other Side of Youth is a finely tuned powerhouse in which every phrase, every pause, resonates with the sadness of ordinary lives.