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The Running Trees by Amber McMillan: Book Review

This month’s collection of short stories is not in the style of Anton Chekhov, only 19and century Russian magician of the new – strictly in many university literary courses.

Or the Canadian Alice Munro who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2013 for “her mastery of modern short stories”.

The running trees is very modern, definitely unconventional and utterly distinctive.

McMillan’s 15 “conversations” immerse the reader in slices of life as disparate as a cat trying to convince another that there are indeed “trees that run” – incidentally also the title of this thin volume .

Then there are the three separate stories of tense book club meetings to discuss a stranger’s memoir of their town and its people.

Some stories are in the traditional narrative style while others have all the characteristics of telephone conversations or, as in a story, a rewound recording of a police interrogation.

What they have in common are the intricacies in how they reveal how each character reacts to manipulation, responsibility, and even abandonment.

They are surprising; conventional they are not; but if you’re a novella connoisseur and looking for something very different, give this volume a try. If, however, like many readers, you are not satisfied with the genre of short stories, you may well find this collection to your liking.

Delve into this thin volume and you’ll find that many contain the characteristics of snippets heard at the bus stop or in the dentist’s waiting room where conventional resolution is neither expected nor provided. Except that in the best of this collection, the author subtly reveals the inevitable outcome along the way.

The running trees began life as a thesis for her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia. CBC Books named it one of its works of fiction to watch.

About Amber McMillan

McMillan is also the author of The Woods: A Year on the Island of Protection, an honest memoir of the time McMillan, her husband and their young daughter spent on the island between Gabriola Island and Nanaimo, British Columbia. The experiment turned out to be more controversial than they had imagined. Could this experience be the inspiration behind the three-part story called The Book Club, Acts 1-111?

Amber McMillan now lives in New Brunswick where she is a lecturer at the University of New Brunswick and teaches changing publishing environments.

She has also published a collection of poetry titled We can never do this again. Her work has also been published in PRISM International, Arc Poetry Magazine and The Walrus.

Book Information

The running trees; publication date: September 7, 2021; publisher: Goose Lane Publishing; author: Amber McMillian; pages: 224; price: $19.75

Kate Barlow

Originally from England, she has always enjoyed writing, pursuing a career as a journalist at the Hamilton Spectator and eventually becoming a published author. A founding member of a local book club, Kate is always looking for that one person…

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