Review: Nosy White Woman won’t make you work | Arts + Culture | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST

Review: Nosy White Woman won’t make you work

Martha Wilson’s short story collection is an easy read—perhaps overly so.

There are some nice moments in Martha Wilson's collection of 16 short stories. 

She describes a child's grandfather as "the silent presence" who communicated through his wife.

She recounts how an elderly woman accessed a neglected memory of a family friend when a "pocket door in her mind slid back." 

And she explains how, to a pair of innocent prepubescent sisters, a clothing store putting a gold lamé bikini on display was "like showing the mannequins having sex right there in the store window on Main Street."

Wilson pays attention to the details that comprise relationships—the connections, the complications, the remembered and the forgotten.

She prizes the seemingly insignificant details of family relationships, close friendships, married couples, committee members, neighbours, acquaintances—even cashiers and shoppers. She writes about the moments they share and the secrets they keep. She writes about the conversations they have and the ones they don't. 

These details are engaging. 

Unfortunately, these details don't add up to an engaging whole. 

Wilson spends too much time telling rather than showing. She should leave more details dangling—low-hanging word-fruit, ripe for the picking. Fiction readers want to work a little. They want to think, make connections, draw conclusions.

But Wilson doesn't allow that. She picks the fruit, arranges it neatly in a basket, wraps it in cellophane and delivers it with a big bow. She provides too much exposition and makes it all too obvious. 

In addition, Wilson includes some heavy-handed moralizing on race relations, substance abuse and judging other people. There's too many self-righteous characters in this book—at least, too many we're supposed to like. 

It's clear that Wilson means well and that she has a talent for details. But, there's a little too much message in this book—it all feels a little too much like an after-school special.

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