Books·Canadian

This Unlikely Soil

A book by Andrea Routley.

Andrea Routley

This Unlikely Soil, the sophomore collection from Lambda Literary Award finalist Andrea Routley, is a quintet of linked novellas exploring the failures of kindness and connection among a rural west-coast community of queer women. In "Midden," Naomi, recently split from Rita and apathetically venturing into online dating, sifts through the remains of past relationships after Rita accuses her of "emotional abuse."

In Appropriate Behaviour, Freddie, suffering from a brain injury, seeks resolution with a neighbour after his dog bites her, but a lifetime of mixed messages yields disastrous results. In "Guided Walk," Miriam's latest clumsy infatuation pushes her to change her life, to finally "come out" on a guided walk with her cousin.

When her cousin beats her to it, Miriam descends into pettiness before finding her way out of the woods. This Unlikely Soil, a finalist for the 2020 Malahat Review Novella Prize, is the story of Elana, who, following the sudden death of her mother, attempts to manufacture a meaningful relationship with a former partner's teenaged son. The quintet concludes with Damage, the sequel to Midden

Told from Rita's perspective, this story explores classist exploitations within many relationships and asks what our responsibilities are in saying no. The environment looms large in these pieces, not simply mirroring characters' lives but shaping them — trees, bears, lichen, fungus, Dungeness crabs and mussels all have a role to play.

The dense West Coast landscape echoes the isolation experienced by these queer characters and the inscrutability of others in their lives. While characters often embody painful histories and cringe-worthy decision-making skills, the stories are full of humour and love. (From Dagger Editions)

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