The Crooked Thing


By Mary MacDonald

Categories: Fiction, Short Stories
Imprint: Caitlin Press
Paperback : 9781773860312, 200 pages, October 2020

For fans of Alice Munro and Carol Shields comes an emotional and hopeful collection of short stories that delve into the tragedies that befall each of us in the search for goodness and meaning.


The English poet, William Blake said, "joy and woe are woven fine." So it is in The Crooked Thing. A collection of intense and emotional stories, there are traumas and betrayals, loves and losses, missed opportunities and discoveries, and above all, hope. In tales delicate and steely, a troubled young ferryman finds himself with an unexpected passenger, a songbird finds its voice, a mother learns to let go of her son and, after a chance encounter, an aging ballerina dances again. In her debut story collection, Mary MacDonald brings each narrator to face their own existence, taking the reader into darkness, passing through fear and resistance, to seek redemption and freedom. At their core these are love stories; they move us, disturb us, and upend our beliefs, to show us characters not all that different from ourselves.


“Mary MacDonald is an elegant writer. Her stories about love, desire, fear and longing are suffused with light. Magical, lyrical and mysterious—I lost myself in this collection.”

—Sarah Selecky, author of Radiant Shimmering Light

“MacDonald’s stories are spell-binding, complex, fresh explorations of love, loss, and discovery. She writes with the voice of a musician, the wisdom of a world traveller, the intensity of a poet, the clever hands of a magician and the tender heart of a dreamer. The Crooked Thing is a beautifully-crafted thing.”

—Katherine Fawcett, author of The Little Washer of Sorrows and The Swan Suit

“Mary MacDonald’s collection of stories, The Crooked Thing, is a voyage through tragedy and desire, with the sharp edge of madness often lurking in between the lines. A lyric writer of sentences assembled from artfully constructed fragments, she transports the mysteries of daily life in an illogical world to the reality we all know, as The Crooked Thing illuminates the many magic moments that create the joy of living.”

—Brian Brett, author of Trauma Farm and The Wind River Variations

“Much narration is through the memory’s prism, with characters shaped by childhood abuse and absent or missing relatives. With the textures of fiction, as with the subtleties of love, MacDonald shines.”

The Ormsby Review

'"Moving deftly between sharply observed realism and a Leonora Carrington-like surrealism, the stories in The Crooked Thing are bathed in love—mother love, daughter love, sibling love, erotic love, self love—all the wild permutations of that joyful sorrowing that is the tender heart of life."

—Merilyn Simonds, author of The Convict Lover and Refuge

“Though reducing the stories to bullet-points of plot creates an impression that MacDonald is deeply sombre and perhaps a touch death-obsessed, her stories are in fact meditative about the enormous complexity—and importance—of close relationships. The stories are testaments to our personal connections and laments about how easily—and how permanently—they can go astray.”

—Brett Josef Grubisic, Vancouver Sun

“I’m not going to lie: these stories broke something deep inside of me, in the best way possible. I read this book in one sitting yesterday, and it took me on a journey around the world—from Canada to France to Tanzania to Norway and back again. There’s an emotional journey here as well, from quiet contentment to aching loss to joyful uncertainty. Maybe it’s these strange, dramatic, chaotic times, but I found myself connecting deeply with each of these stories, reflecting on memories, good and bad, that haven’t surfaced in years. And the through-line in both my memories and the stories that stirred them, was love, in all its crooked forms.”

—Staff Review, Armchair Books Whistler