Wrestling Personal Demons
Catherine Gissing
CROSSING LIMBO: DEEP MOMENTS, SHALLOW LIVES by Shane Joseph Morning Rain Publishing, 2017, 153 pp., 799
September 2017, volume 41, No 9

‘13” is an auspicious number for this collection of short stories by author Shane Joseph. The number ‘13’ conjures up feelings of foreboding and unease, which is exactly  what Joseph delivers in this assembly of stories. Throughout the telling of the ‘13’ tales Joseph introduces us to a myriad characters wrestling with their own personal demons; some mental, some physical and some the very environment they inhabit. The author shows versatility in being able to assume the persona of a wide variety of disparate subjects. He gets inside the mind and circumstances of different characters such as a suicide-bound elderly man, a world-weary chat room enthusiast, a delusional despot of a fictitious oil-rich country, an elderly WWll German Nazi-hunter trying to stave off dementia and even a dog striving to save the boy he so dearly loves.  Like the title of the book, each character finds themselves at a point in their tale where they are forced to cross their own personal limbo. Some take a step or action that leads them deeper into an abyss of their own creation while some take the time to reconsider their options and step back from the path they were following. The strength of the collection is that the outcome is uniquely different in each and every story so that the reader never becomes complacent.

As a Canadian, Joseph manages to lace some of his stories with references to Canadian geography, values and socio-economics. Readers familiar with the Canadian landscape will enjoy references to places such as the changing face of an oil-dependent Alberta or the socially damaged Regent Park community in Toronto. However, the author also manages to ground many of his stories in fictional places that all can relate to. Each story inhabits a distinctive time and place making each uniquely different.

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