Written by Emma Donoghue
Review by Helene Williams

Award-winner Donoghue (Room, Life Mask, Slammerkin) presents a collection of her short stories which focus on journeys, both literal and figurative. Characters may have gone astray by immigrating or drifting away from home; others are in a more focused search with a definite end, be that a person or a place, in mind.

The stories are grouped according to the stage of the journey: Departures, In Transit, and Arrivals and Aftermaths. Each tale creates its own world, most from the 19th century, ranging geographically from the London Zoological Gardens, to the gold fields of Alaska, to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, the deserts of Arizona, and even the shore of the Mississippi in southern Louisiana. In just a few sentences, Donoghue places the reader at the center of the journey, and we feel the painful hunger of Jane Johnson in “Counting the Days,” the bitter cold and loneliness of “Snowblind,” and the confusion of a young German soldier working for the British during the Revolutionary War in “The Hunt.” More often than not, the narrative reveals a secret, which may pull a family together, or, usually, tear it apart, thus sending the characters astray, once again.

Each story is based on historical artifact—a newspaper clipping, letters, a footnote in a history text—making the characters and their journeys all the more real and memorable. While some stories were originally published in other venues, everything here fits well into the thematic collection of those struggling to reach home, to find themselves, or to be with the ones they love.