In general, Up Up Up by Julie BookerI’m sort of lukewarm on short stories, so I was pleasantly surprised when I read Up Up Up by Julie Booker. I did not want to put it down; Julie Booker’s writing is eloquent, thoughtful, funny, and tight. Each story drew me in entirely but complete enough that I could continue without feeling a sense of longing.

A radiant debut collection from Canada’s freshest new voice in fiction: Up Up Up heralds the arrival of a writer of astonishing range, compassion and acuity. In this taut collection of twenty short, sharp stories Julie Booker grabs the reins from writers like Lydia Millet and Miranda July and takes off at full speed, and in directions all her own.

A pair of plus-sized friends make tracks for a kayaking trip in Alaska. A woman vacations with her parents at a Texas trailer park, wondering why she can’t meet a man. A worldly member of a tour group selects sacrifices from among the most cherished belongings of her fellow travellers. A young man dreams of rescuing an abusive friend’s girlfriend — and of having her for himself.

Through these deceptively simple storylines, Booker reminds us of the power of words to enlighten and move us — but most of all, to delight us. Her writing is a revelation — wildly whimsical and yet razor-sharp, highly unusual and yet prompting gasps of recognition on every page.

[Julie Booker’s] short stories have appeared in numerous literary magazines and anthologies, including the 2010 edition of Best Canadian Stories. She won the Writers’ Union of Canada’s Short Prose Competition for Developing Writers in 2009.

From the publisher, House of Anansi Press

I cannot believe this is Julie Booker’s first book because her writing is so well-crafted. The characters are accessible, open and true to their beliefs, whatever they may be. The story settings are familiar yet unique as Booker infuses her characters into their surroundings. The stories seem simple at the outset but are complex, subtle, humorous, and just overall good.

I really enjoyed how the narrator and POV shifted each story, I felt it helped to conclude the previous story and draw me into the next one. Each story was satisfying, and the book was a cohesive whole, tied together by themes of identity. My favourites were probably “Thixatropic”,
“Sacrifice”, and “Death on the Nile”.

Booker doesn’t write paragraph after paragraph of physical character description or setting—the writing is clean and each detail is included for a reason. The writing is clean, well-honed, and (probably) well-edited. You can tell Julie Booker clearly grasps the essence of short stories and I cannot wait to read what she writes next.

Full disclosure: I received a copy (unsolicited) from the publisher. I chose to read and review it. This situation did not affect my review in any way, shape or form.