All the Pretty Girls
Chandra Mayor thinks knitting is "achingly boring and not particularly radical," which is enough to get me to read her novels. A follow-up to her 2005 debut Cherry, set in Winnipeg's punk scene in the '90s, All the Pretty Girlsis a collection of short stories in the same vein, the characters a bit more confident and grown-up. Like a punk rock Margaret Atwood or Alice Munro, Mayor investigates the lives of young women taking a different trajectory than Munro and Atwood's housewives. Characters reappear from her previous novel, and different narrators of stories tend to blur together, but Mayor's voice is sincere, her stories familiar tales of acquaintances we idolize, friends we've lost over the years, friends who've become unrecognizable and nagging ties to family, set against a facade of mohawks, hardcore records, whiskey shots and welfare cheques. Mayor's writing imbues winter nights in Winnipeg with mystic properties, but where her earlier writing tended to overromanticize everything, these women are a bit more wizened, centred in the here and now, looking back at those mystical days they're not so far removed from. The urban setting of a place less familiar in Canadian literature is refreshing, too. Read it, then pass it on to your best friend after a night of heavy drinking.