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Quebec writer Alice Petersen publishes 2nd story collection, Worldly Goods

A new short story collection by Alice Petersen is getting attention in the publishing world. Inspired by memories of her childhood in New Zealand, Petersen reminds us what we take when leave home for a new life.

Another Alice making splash in Canada's literary circles with her short stories

Alice Petersen, who grew up in New Zealand, now lives in Quebec. Her stories have variously been shortlisted for the CBC Literary awards, The Journey Prize and the Metcalf Rooke Award for fiction. (Biblioasis)

In her new collection of short stories, Worldly Goods, Quebec author Alice Peterson writes about people at a time of loss or tragedy, in circumstances that lead them to look back on their lives and loneliness.

Petersen won the Quebec Writer's Federation Concordia University First Book Prize in 2012 for a first collection of stories, All the Voices Cry.

In her latest offering, Alice Petersen writes about how our 'worldly goods' define us and our hope and our communication within the world. (Biblioasis )

The title of her latest work is taken from the book Les biens de ce monde by the late Irène Némirovsky.

"Her book speaks to me about the role of our very small worldly goods and how they define us and our hope and our communication within the world," says Petersen.

These small worldly goods might be a record player – as is the case in the opening story in the collection, Music Minus One.

In the story, the main character, Brian Fitzgerald, falls down the basement stairs, and his eyes light upon a record player purchased years earlier. The record player reminds him of a party he once attended where he saves a cellist from being assaulted and as a reward, she plays for him.

The stories we tell again and again

"That record player was drawn from one on which I played all my records as a teenager," says Petersen, who grew up in New Zealand. "It was a Pye Black Box that my parents bought in London. So it's part of the sort of nostalgic glow that I feel about my parents early married life together."

"I really wanted that to be the opening story, and the records that we play: these are the stories that we tell over and over again like a record."

In the title story, Worldly Goods, a young woman seeks refuge in the rain in a church. The young organist notices her and tries to help by introducing her to the ladies of the church folding clothes for a church bazaar.

Alice Petersen won the QWF Concordia University's First Book Prize in 2012 for All the voices cry. (Biblioasis)

But the solace she sought was not to be found in the church, and the young woman crawls out a basement window to freedom.

"That came from personal loss. Having suffered a miscarriage, I went seeking solace in a church that spoke to me in terms of my upbringing. And the church is and isn't always the best place to go."

The collection is getting well reviewed. In the Montreal Review on Books, Katia Grubisic writes:

"Alice Petersen writes as eloquently about the natural world as she does about the world of human emotion and desire. This is a wise and impressive collection of stories."

Publishers Weekly praises the "Crisp sentences and slightly old-fashioned vocabulary."

Goodreads says "These lyrical, open-eyed stories are set in North America, England, and the author's native New Zealand. With a focus on marriage, family, and the moral complexities that arise from these relationships, Alice Peterson's fiction evokes the best of Katherine Mansfield and Alice Munro."

Worldly Goods is published by Biblioasis.

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