Review: Astray by Emma Donoghue

I love maps. Not only do I find them aesthetically pleasing, but being familiar with maps is incredibly useful and I have a great sense of direction as a result. I was drawn to Astray‘s beautiful cover, and Emma Donoghue did not disappoint (Judging a book by its cover paid off in this case).

This is a collection of short stories, each having to do with travel or migration. The stories are split into three sections: Departures, In Transit, and Arrivals and Aftermaths. The stories range in tone, at times hopeful (Onward), funny (The Widow’s Cruse, The Body Swap), or poignant (The Gift, Counting the Days). Though I wouldn’t say I loved every single story, they are all solid and well-written, and together form a collection that is remarkably consistent in quality.

My favorites were The Widow’s Cruse and Daddy’s Girl. Without giving too much away, the first features a lawyer helping a woman settle her husband’s estate and considering marrying her, with a nice little twist at the end. Daddy’s Girl is from the perspective of a woman whose father just passed away, detailing her discovery that there was much she didn’t know about her parents. I also liked The Hunt, though it was one of the more painful stories to read, as I expected more strength than the character was able to give. You leave the story feeling disappointed, not in the writing, but in the situation and the decision made in the the end.

At the end of each story, there’s a brief explanation of where the idea came from. Many were based on real people or events recorded in historical documents such as newspapers or census data, and each story’s background is explored a little more in the Afterword. While I have to assume this isn’t an original idea, I don’t think I’ve read any anthologies that are all based on historical anecdotes. I would be keen to read more anthologies like this, especially if they’re also from this author. Emma Donoghue has found a new fan.

Title: Astray
Author: Emma Donoghue
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
My rating: ☆☆☆☆ (4 stars)
Recommended for: Anyone experiencing wanderlust, or just looking for a great collection of short stories

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