Hossack describes the Mennonite characters and world in great detail but does not focus on the interplay between the Mennonite community and the secular community. I think this separation serves to present the characters as people first and Mennonite second. It allows the reader to connect more with the characters as individuals rather than as a community of people. I think this makes it easier to identify with them and not make assumptions based on what we know or think we know about the Mennonite community. For myself, while reading, I quite often forgot that this was a specific group of people and most often saw them as families with issues rather than as a collection of people from a specific background.
The church and discussions of faith are often noticeably absent from Hossack’s stories. This was quite different from what I expected when reading stories about Mennonite culture. Before reading the stories I had thought I would actually become immersed in the culture via the book. But that expectation was quickly forgotten as I began reading.
I enjoyed reading this book. The first few stories were favourites, but I am not sure if the latter ones were not as appealing because of the sadness throughout the book or if, had I not read them all in one sitting, if others would have been as enjoyable as well. My favourites were Ashes and Luna. Ashes: A beautiful story of the exquisite pain found in life and the healing connections common ground can bring to people. Luna: The story showed the power words have, their ability to grow slowly and silently inside a person from childhood to adulthood. How those word, if the poisoning kind, can one day invade conscious thought and wreak havoc on one's life. I choose to view the removal of the moth at the end of the story as a different sort of chrysalis - one where Jonah is able to transform from the negativity gifted by his father to the type of man, husband and father he dreamed of being.
Overall it was refreshing, though often painful, to see the truth of life in these stories, uncluttered by material things and the noise of modern culture. The stories showed what it was to be striped bare toe the essence of what it is to be human, and that we are not very different from each other. I saw distant echoes of my own life in these stories. Sometimes it was the heartbreak or not getting that toy you so desperately wanted, other times the tightening in the chest when you realize the harsh connection of the sweet animal in front of you to the dinner you had last night, and still other times that desperate need to leave, travel, explore and experience something, anything but instead must remain where you are. Each story was a smooth read, crisp and clean.