The sixteen stories found in The Weeping Chair by Donald Ward cover a wide range of highly imaginative situations, ranging from humorous to heartbreaking, from cognizant chickens to the criminally insane, from Saskatoon to outer space. Many of the stories present a deceptively normal situation, such as traveling on a train, preparing dinner, or ordering coffee, which quickly evolves into something fantastic and profound. Ward turns the mundane ever so slightly, giving the reader a new and illuminating perspective.
The stories are full of interesting characters, some more eccentric than others. Ward is able to quickly sketch out these people and bring them to life using just a few words: “She was wearing a black, floor-length cape today,” he writes, “high-collared, like some anthropomorphic creature from a children’s tale.” His dialogue is both witty and truthful, and he skillfully captures the brief relations formed between strangers in day to day life.
Some stories are hilariously quirky, others are deeply moving, and some are both. The humour is often dark, as with the observation “Death is the ultimate treatment for a sleep disorder.” There are a few threads which seem to run through multiple stories, such as parental responsibility, but for the most part each story is quite distinct. There is little repetition; none is quite like the other. One story deals with a murdered priest, another with a man who leads two lives, another features a love story spanning centuries. The stories often end on a note of revelation, illuminating the deeper meaning of all that has happened before and prompting the reader’s reflection. Like any good book, The Weeping Chair stirs the desire for a second or even a third reading, not only in order to catch details which slipped by before, but also for the pure enjoyment of revisiting these whimsical worlds.
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