Play The Monster Blind by Lynn Coady

Play The Monster Blind by Lynn Coady

Vintage Canada, Toronto, 2001

From my TBR pile.

This is a collection of short stories, linked by characters, family histories and location.  It is the first time I have read Lynn Coady, an author and playwright from Nova Scotia who now lives in Edmonton, Alberta.

Reading these stories felt like walking barefoot over gravel, sharp and painful, wanting to hurry and get into cool grass.  Coady is an insightful writer, exploring the dynamics of family and community in a small town.

Anyone who has lived in a small town, particularly as an adolescent, knows the feeling Coady expresses in her stories.  Gossip, back-biting, bullying, the need to fit in and the need to escape.

…When you think about people gossiping, you think about everyone sitting around and talking and talking until it makes everyone sick, but that’s not really how it works at all.  All it takes is one sentence every couple of days, a passing remark or a joke.  And then that person and all that is wrong with them is riveted inside your skull and if  anyone ever says their name around you it triggers all the remarks and jokes in a flood – that’s what you think of when you think of them.  That’s how it works.  From The Ice-Cream Man, page 36.

And there’s that closed in feeling of not getting anywhere as an adult, of giving in, and giving up.   There are also those people who escape small towns and then find themselves drawn back, for a funeral or a wedding or because life is just too difficult “out there”.

I know, this sound depressing, but Lynn Coady’s abilities bring a sharp humor to these stories and make even the most unlikable character understandable.  Some of the stories focus on girls growing up and women who blame themselves for the state of their families and the state of the world.  This made me angry but I found that while Coady shines a light into some dark corners, she does so with compassion.

Other reviews:

Buried in Print


Filed under Canadian, Review, StoryCollection

17 responses to “Play The Monster Blind by Lynn Coady

  1. Oh yeah. The town I grew up in from the time I was twelve had a population of 2,000. Nearest mall was an hour away. Needless to say, I got the hell out of there but so many of my classmates stayed, despite everything they said otherwise. I know a girl who got a full scholarship to a community college in a nearby city but left after a month because they, like, actually made her do stuff. She’s been back in town ever since. I think I would identify with this book.

  2. Okay, this book sounds amazing! I’ve heard of this author before but your review is the first I’ve read of her books. It’s going on my tbr list.

    • These stories really are amazing. Unfortunately I had a hard time finding the book and eventually ordered a used copy over the internet. It was worth it.

  3. This was the best book I read last year– so glad you enjoyed it!

  4. I love your “walking barefoot over gravel” description. That told me so much.

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  6. hm, I thought I had all of Lynn Coady’s books, but I don’t have this one… Saints of Big Harbour is my favourite book by her. I haven’t read her newest book yet.

    • I had to search online for a used copy of Play the Monster Blind. I will eventually do the same for her other titles. Didn’t the newest book get listed for the Giller prize?

  7. Hmmm sounds like an interesting book. I’ve only read one book by the author, and never knew she had a short story collection, I think I may have to check it out. Thanks for the review!

  8. I still vividly recall the ending of the first story; it just tore me into bits with that “oh, how wonderful” and “oh, how horrible” feeling when you realize that someone has perfectly described something ugly. It’s nice to read another perspective on it (and another glowing one too) as it seems to be a book of hers which is often overlooked. (My thoughts are here, if you’re curious.)

    • I know. I had a similar response to several of these stories. I’ll check out your thoughts and add a link to mine:)

      • That’s great! Particularly with books like this, where there’s not a lot of book chat going on about them, I love the idea of interconnecting the ether-living thoughts about them…all contributing to the bigger bookish discussion! Thanks, Gavin!

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