Sunday, 6 October 2013

Stormy Weather

Forecast: Turbulence (2012) is a collection of nine short stories by Janette Turner Hospital. Set in Australia, Canada and the US, these stories are strongly linked together by themes of disquiet and unrest.

The weather is ever present in these tales, looming overhead, threatening. From torrential rain and hurricanes on the Carolina coast to the red dust storms of drought plagued outback, the rough weather blows ominously through each tale.

The stories are meant to be uncomfortable focussing on themes of domestic violence, self-harm, child abuse, kidnapping and the like. Each unsettling tale reveals characters with lives as turbulent as the weather around them. In "Blind Date" a young boy awaits the arrival of his long-absent father. In outback Queensland a teenage girl escapes from her secessionist father and his "Republic of Outer Barcoo". While in "Weather Maps" two girls, forced to visit their abusive stepfathers in prison, compare their wounds.

Janette Turner Hospital uses language masterfully. For example, in a story about a whale-watching boat skipper, "Salvage", she refers to rumours that "multiply like krill". Hospital also knows how to craft short stories as contained vignettes, leaving the reader with food for thought which will linger long after the storm passes.

Forecast: Turbulence was shortlisted for the 2012 Prime Minister's Literary Awards.