Thrilled by this first formal book review by the former CEO of the Art Gallery of Burlington of my new short story collection, STICKS and STONES, published in The Bay Observer in Hamilton, a former print and now fully on-line news resource for the Greater Hamilton Area.
STICKS and STONES will be available as an ebook on Oct 16th via Amazon and non-Amazon platforms. A paperback is coming in the Spring of 2022.
Here are Mr. Steven's choice words:
Sticks and Stones, the new collection of previously unpublished short stories by prominent Burlington-born artist/writer/filmmaker Margaret Lindsay Holton, is surprisingly unsettling.
That it would be unsettling is no surprise: the author clearly articulates in the introduction her objective to entice readers away from their settled beliefs and ideological certainties into unfamiliar cognitive spaces in the hope that more empathetic and fluid communication might develop across today’s social and political divides.
The surprise is in just how many different and unexpected ways Holton finds to destabilize the inherent cognitive bias of the reader. Poetic word choices, plot twists, and shifts in perspective are to be expected in the short story format, but Holton combines and recombines these with familiar settings and seemingly familiar characters to the point that even the most ordinary scenes can become hallucinatory experiences.
Holton’s sensibility as a visual artist is evident in the extraordinary number of indelible images that these stories evoke. However, I feel I must refrain from describing in too much detail any of these striking moments lest their impact within the reading be diluted.
The collection includes ten stories, mostly set in the Golden Horseshoe region. Some are simple and touching sketches, some involve fantasy and romance, and some are disturbingly puzzling, while others are puzzlingly disturbing. To reveal more would just spoil the fun.
Although these stories are all newly completed, Holton explains in the introduction how their original drafts were written at various stages over the past forty years, and how the experience of the 2020/21 pandemic inspired her to revisit these works. These reworked stories resonate deeply in this period of isolation and uncertainty. They evolve with a kind of organic accuracy that amplifies an on-going contemplation of the grandeur and significance of the passage of time. (Worth noting, this ability to ‘mark time’ parallels her deft handling of multiple generations throughout her 2019 award-winning novel, TRILLIUM, a 250-year epic saga set in the Niagara Peninsula.)
Sticks and Stones offers the reader an insightful
glimpse of the aesthetic voice of Margaret Lindsay Holton. It rewards the
reader with several enduring images and provokes profound questions as it subtly
reflects on the beauty, horror, heroism, and hubris of our shared experience,
especially during this unprecedented pandemic. It is a good read. I highly
Ebook, 107 pgs. - Paperback, 126pgs, - via Acorn Press Canada.
Pre-order e-book on Amazon – https://www.amazon.ca/Sticks-Stones-Canadian-Short-Stories-ebook/dp/B09DTRYCGZ - Paperback coming January, 2022.
Robert Steven is former President and CEO of the Art Gallery of Burlington, and the former Executive Director and Curator of the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie.