THE ONLY WAY OUT IS THROUGH

Words by Nora Bingham

Hunger Moon is a shining read for a season of strangeness.

 
 

Full disclosure: I am a Traci Skuce fangirl, but because one of the things I love so much about the way she writes is her precision and economy of language, I will do my best to avoid gushing hyperbole. Her first book, Hunger Moon, was published during this strange spring, and I want you to go out and buy a copy from your local bookshop (I bet they have curbside pick-up) as soon as you are able.

In mid-March, I picked up my advanced copy of Hunger Moon from the author’s mailbox while we waved awkwardly to each other through her front window. I mimed a hug at her through the glass and walked home. Neither of us knew how strange things were about to get, but Skuce was in the process of adaptation. What was meant be a season of book tours and public readings was morphing into Facebook interactive sessions, and live readings on Zoom. The only way out is through.

Pandemic strangeness aside, let’s talk about the book!

I love a well-written short story. To be able to develop characters and build a narrative—and then to be able to move that narrative to a satisfying conclusion in roughly twenty pages—is a demonstration of mastery. Skuce’s mastery is on display in each of these 13 stories. I have a few favourites, but the collection is so strong that my allegiance shifts back and forth between stories as I reread them.

In the sixth story, “At The Edge Of Everything,” we follow Alli as she navigates single mothering with an empty bank account, a busted Subaru, and an errant ex.

“Destination Scavengers” is the ninth story in the collection, and follows Riley, Leon, and Jana on a road trip through the mountains in a beat-up Pontiac Sunfire. Leon grapples with grief for his father, fears for his friend Riley’s mental health, and an unexpected longing for Jana in between smoking joints and arguing over what to listen to on the car stereo. 

“Bliss And A Boy I Once Loved,” the tenth story, introduces us to Claudia, working at a health food store, “elbow deep in red lentils,” and searching for something to give purpose to her life.

In each story there are moments that are simultaneously mundane and profound. There is a tone of longing—a hunger for some kind of shift, something to change the characters’ lives. 

Skuce’s characters explore the tenuous grasp we have on shaping our lives, the illusion of success or control. Fate (and personal choices) tie one moment to another, and we find that they have slipped into a present we never wished for, and now have to move through it, tie more moments together. 

Skuce lives, walks, and writes in Cumberland, British Columbia. Hopefully one of these days we’ll all get the opportunity to sit shoulder to shoulder in an audience while she reads to us from Hunger Moon. In the meantime, enjoy the space that was created in your life this spring, and sink into this masterful collection.

“Once she’d read of a place, some high mountain village in Tibet or India, where the ground was too hard or frozen to dig, where the dead were left unburied, exposed to the elements, left for scavengers to feast. Maybe it was all like that. Maybe in the end we were just picked clean. Husbands from wives. Rings from fingers. Trees from land. All part of some mysterious cycle.”

—from “At the Edge of Everything”