#NLREADS

Is Santa Claus our only hope? In Lisa Moore's latest book, he just may be

Lisa Moore looks at what it means when things get mean in the stories of NL Reads finalist Something For Everyone.

Newfoundland and Labrador isn't immune to the world's chaos, says Lisa Moore

Lisa Moore's Something For Everyone was longlisted for the Giller Prize. (Heather Barrett/CBC)

When Santa Claus comes crashing through the roof of the Avalon Mall in Lighting Up The Dark, the second-last short story in Lisa Moore's collection Something for Everyone, readers are already used to the book's darkly comedic way of bringing the unimaginable to life — and its penchant for dropping the world's chaos straight into the heart of St. John's.

"I want there to be hilarity, I want there to be joy of being alive, but I want there to be a recognition of the fact that lives are so precarious for so many people," said Moore of the stories in her collection. "The humour and the joy and the love and the sex. But also how desperate things can become for people who don't have a firm grip on security."

At the centre of each story is a question she's been thinking about a lot, she said: "What does it mean when things get mean?"

"I know that's a lot to ask of a little short story collection."

Something for Everyone is Lisa Moore's latest collection of short stories. (Stephanie Tobin/CBC)

But from Long's Hill to the fjords of Iceland, Lisa Moore's Something for Everyone, this month's pick for the NL Reads competition, delivers every emotional hit, all while stretching our ideas of what's possible in a short story.

"I really wanted to just go wild and to see what a story could do and let it expand as far as I possibly could and draw it back in," she said.

Organized by the province's libraries, NL Reads asks people to read four new Newfoundland and Labrador novels and vote for their favourite in the leadup to a gala event in February in St. John's, where one book will be crowned the winner.

Thanks to Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries, anyone during February can take advantage of unlimited digital copies and download the Something for Everyone right here and read along.

The nod from NL Reads is not the first for Something For Everyone; the book made last year's Giller Prize long list, too.

The Pulse shooting aftermath

Something For Everyone is Moore's first short story collection since 2002's Giller Prize finalist Open

"I wanted to capture the experiences I was living," she said.

The Viper's Revenge came out of her trip to Orlando, Fla., shortly after the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting.

"It was incredibly hot. It was the kind of hot that it was a weight," she said. "And the grief that was everywhere … you could feel it, like the heat."

The story gives the reader a look at the devastation through eyes of a visitor to the city, and through the shattered hearts of a small family that lost a member in the massacre.

A woman cries at the memorial outside the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on the first anniversary of the 2016 shooting that killed 49 people. (Scott Audette/Reuters)

Exploring hard times in Newfoundland and Labrador

In her stories set in St. John's and in the province, many of her characters are alone, struggling to make ends meet.

The protagonist of The Challenges and Rewards of Re-entering the Workforce has just been laid off from her government job after searing budget cuts, a nod to the massive layoffs that followed the Newfoundland and Labrador government's bleak 2013 budget.

I think things are getting very mean out there.- Lisa Moore

The book's closing novella, Skywalk, is about a young woman, a student at Memorial University, who is desperately looking for affordable housing while living next door to a violent rapist. Moore wrote it as a similar story unfolded in her own neighbourhood, she said.

And Lighting Up the Dark's leading man works as a dishwasher in St. John's and is heading to the Avalon Mall to commit a robbery — that is, until the roof caves in under the weight of Santa, his sleigh and his reindeer.

"All of the austerity that we see all over, and the kind of the swing to the right in politics and the rise of the one per cent, all of that is connected," she said.

And it plays out right here in Newfoundland and Labrador, she said.

"I think things are getting very mean out there. Who gets hurt by that and how does that trickle down and what does it mean for everyone?"

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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