House of Anansi Press
A book both quiet and bold, Jen Currin's debut fiction is a short story collection to be proud of. Oftentimes when a poet turns to prose--the B.C. author is an award-winning poet--the strength of the work is in its use of language and lyricism. This isn't entirely the case with Hider/Seeker, as the language it employs is more to the point. Currin has also employed a skill that all good poets possess: editing. In Hider/Seeker there is no excess, every story is exactly the length it should be, whether that is a few pages or more than 20.
These are stories about people at various stages of their lives, written with appropriate distance. There's no mess here, even for the messiest of characters and relationships. Some themes recur: Buddhism and meditation, navigating urban life on the LGBTQ2+ spectrum and untangling romantic relationships. Oftentimes a first short story collection will feel like it was written over the course of years, some making way for the others--but Currin's collection avoids that, making it easy to read the stories straight through.
Her smart sensibility makes the serious seem casual, the casual seem serious, and even makes magic come off as entirely believable. In one of the book's shortest stories, an angel visits a character with some advice; another begins with a run-down of what the character has named her dildos--both seem appropriate; neither read as being there for show.
At its core, this is a book about the many roles people play, the ones put on us, the ones we choose and the ones we reject. There is also a running theme around teachers, some more conventional than others, some who force us to do our own learning. "It's always the plans that undo us," Currin writes in one story. This sentiment rings true to a great many of Hider/Seeker's characters--these are people who have had plans, been able to see their futures ahead, and have often seen their plans derailed. Currin asks us to think about what's next.
REVIEW BY TARA-MICHELLE ZINIUK