The Man in the Shed, Lloyd Jones
Vintage Canada, 265 pages
Most fiction about family life examines the relationships between the characters and the particular culture that has developed over time. But what of the spaces in between the individuals and the parts of the self that are unfamiliar to one’s nearest and dearest?
In his collection of short stories entitled The Man in the Shed, Lloyd Jones takes a hard look at these unknowable places and what happens to spouses, children and friends when they sense the presence of this otherness and don’t quite know what to do about it. The title story tells of a family who has allowed a recent immigrant to camp out in the backyard shed, unaware that an additional male presence will shift dynamics between the husband, his wife and his son. In “Where the Harleys live,” a romantic encounter played out nightly in an amateur theatre production begins to creeps into real life, violating the small town’s code of respectability. And “The Waiting Room” looks at the aching disappointment at the failure to conceive.
The Man in the Shed tells of loss and longing as its characters deal with the nameless spaces in their lives. The writing is beautiful, haunting and spare, and the stories are emotionally true without lapsing into sentimentality. A strong recommendation for readers of Alice Munro and Jane Urquhart.