The eight short stories in Marci Denesiuk’s “The Far Away Home” are all about the feeling of home, or the lack thereof, in the lives of eight desolate women on the verge of insanity.
“The most generous thing said about Pina in the twelve years she worked for the audio-visual department at the university was ‘At least she doesn’t smell bad.’ For the most parts she went completely unnoticed.”
That’s how the story of Pina, an obese looser with a sweat problem and a knack for card games starts out in “Two feet in Texas.” Although her main characters might seem like hopeless social outcasts, Denesiuk makes her readers sympathize with her characters, no matter how sorry they might seem on the surface. The women in her stories have all become scared to leave their protective shells and become vulnerable, instead opting to dig themselves further into isolation and weirdness to avoid the real world. This leaves a group of women that might seem normal on the physical level, but that have troubled inner lives of loneliness and confusion.
In the case of Pina, her way to recovery starts as she’s dared to accept a poker game against a contrived film student with high regards of himself. The challenge came after her split pants uncharacteristically made her question his artistic integrity in front of his friends. The final bet on the table is four paper bits with names on them, symbolizing each of the poker players’ soul, along with money Pina decides would be better spent in a gorging spree at the supermarket. Of course, our anti-heroine wins, and does so with the realization that the paper stubs were never more than pieces of paper, although it would have felt like so much more had she lost. Victory for someone who doesn’t ever get to win, even at the fictional level, is truly satisfying.
Although not all of the women win in the end, all of the stories depict a journey towards some form of release. Home can come in many different shapes and forms, and each of the women eventually step towards something resembling safety.
This is Edmonton native Denesiuk’s debut publication, and she does well at it too. Denesiuk has a MA from Concordia’s creative writing program, and currently lives in Montreal.
Although none of the stories are very complex, they feel heartfelt and real, which really is all that matters.
Take for instance the story of Caroline, the wife of an RCMP officer stationed in Sachs Harbour in the Northwest Territories. Sleepiness practically creeps up on you as you imagine days and months without sunlight in an “eskimo village”, and Caroline’s utter disinterest of staying awake is nothing if not understandable. The Montreal winter will seem like a real treat in comparison.