- Paperback: 244 pages
- Publisher: Counterpoint; 1st Counterpoint paperback ed edition (October 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781582431673
- ISBN-13: 978-1582431673
- ASIN: 1582431671
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,521,048 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Small Change Paperback – October 2, 2001
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From Library Journal
Hay's (A Student of Weather) second book of short stories examines the changing seasons of friendship, its peaks and valleys, joys and betrayals. In many of these tales, she illustrates how the course of friendship at first runs smoothly but invariably transforms itself over time, sometimes even burning itself out. The characters in these interconnected stories come alive and earn readers' sympathy and understanding. Maureen in The Fire or Ivy in The Parents could well be one's neighbor, sister, or grandmother. In spare prose, the stories exert a quiet forcefulness and convey a sense of character, message, and plot without pretense or superficiality. A gifted storyteller, Hay has written a wise, penetrating, and memorable collection of stories that communicates the vulnerable nature of friendship. First published in Canada by Porcupine's Quill in 1997, this collection was a finalist for three literary prizes, including the Trillium Award. Very highly recommended for academic and public libraries.Lisa Nussbaum, Dauphin Cty. Lib. Sys., Harrisburg, PA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
This exceptional, well-paced collection of linked stories about women's friendships has an extraordinarily intimate feel that's propelled by the reader's sense that he or she has either known or been the woman Hay portrays, the character Beth, who is the connecting thread. She and the author Elizabeth are most often one, but occasionally their voices separate into two, weaving an extra glint of color in the fabric of the stories. Beth, also a writer, is self-conscious and analytical. She focuses her examining eye on her friendships--the joys and wounds, offerings and rejections, beginnings and endings--to find further clues to her own self. And these friends of hers are an interesting and diverse group. In "Hand Games" she sees the woes of friendship through her daughter's eyes; in "Sayonara" the friend is a man with indefinable motives; in "The Reader" it is a sentimental woman with a core of steel. Canadian writer Hay, author of the splendid novel A Student of Weather [BKL N 15 00], evokes timelessness and universality. Danise Hoover
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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I have been a fan of Canadian writer Elizabeth Hay's work for nearly twenty years now, having read with great enjoyment her novels, A Student of Weather,Late Nights on Air: A Novel,Alone in the Classroom, and, more recently, her latest, His Whole Life (due out in the USA in November 2015).
The twenty stories presented here are connected through a narrator, Beth, who is a writer. Given the name, as well as the locales - Ottawa, Toronto, New York City, and several references to stays in Mexico and Paris - I suspect the stories are highly autobiographical in nature. But whether I'm right in this or not, I found these stories, all about the changing, fragile and often ephemeral nature of friendships, simply exquisite in their telling.
Beth is a constant; her even-tempered, tolerant and orderly (second) husband, Ted, and small children, Annie and Mike, figure in many of the stories. And there is a gallery of girl and women friends who populate the stories, many of them reoccurring as mutual friends: Maureen, Norma, Jill, Carol, Lorna, Susan, Sophie, Leah, etc. And there are also a few gay and bisexual characters, such as David, Danny, and Leonard.
The point-of-view also shifts between stories, from first to second person to omniscient. But that writer's sensibility remains constant. And the focus is always on friendships, although men's friendships are almost dismissed. "They don't brood so luxuriously about friendships gone wrong. They think about them very little, it seems, and talk about them less." ("Cezanne in a Soft Hat") Beth found that "she envied the more active life of men and their peaceable if almost non-existent friendships. Few of the men she knew had many friends." ("Cowgirl")
But women's friendships, ah, they are a completely different matter. Highly complex, constantly changing and competitive, filled with sturm and drang, they wax and wane like the phases of the moon. And that is what makes these stories so good, so readable - that intense focus on how women bond, from early childhood (read "Hand Games," about her daughter Annie and playmate Joyce), to young mothers ("The Friend," "The Fight" and others), all the way to the end stages of life (her friend Jill, in "Several Losses").
In "Several Losses" Beth sums up her experience with friendship thusly -
"My friendship is unreliable, but it reliably follows a pattern established in childhood of over-immersion followed by withdrawal, of infatuation (in its many forms) followed by aversion .. The pattern leads here. To a woman past forty counting up friendships and arriving at small change."
Hence the book's title. I suppose one could call these "women's stories," and they certainly are that, but they are much more. They let you in on how women think, what they feel. I loved these stories, savored them even. Hay penetrates to the very souls of the women she writes about, and in so doing she bravely bares her own. This is simply beautiful writing. My highest recommendation.
- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER
It matters little whether an individual episode begins or ends darkly - the darkness is there, persistent throughout the collection. Bethie demands, in her mind, much from her friends. Failure to deliver, or stepping from a preconceived image, arouses her wrath quickly. That anger is expressed, but entirely in her mind. Few shouting matches. No clearing of issues. Simply drifting apart or, in a few cases, some prickly rebounds. Being a friend of Bethie's is a high-risk investment with few rewards. In fact, none of the relationships revealed here could be remotely called "friendships" no matter how frequently the word crops up.
Although a disturbing read, the nomination for many awards this book received is testimony to its value. Calling the writing "honed" is puny understatement. Yet, what the book accomplishes remains elusive. Hay has offered none of her characters as a role model. Perhaps the real challenge in this book is inherent in its "women's view." Is this book an example of why many women censure the right of male writers to assume their viewpoint? This book may be throwing down the gauntlet to male writers to delve this deeply into a woman's psyche. The vivid exposure of Bethie's inner thoughts so genuinely portrayed, show Hay's skills cannot be challenged. A valuable expression of inner thoughts, this book is a fine example of creative writing. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]