All stories connect to St. John’s, Newfoundland. The buzzing East Coast town is a character more than it is a backdrop: the characters we meet are part of its fabric, be they workers, family members, partners, professionals, etc. The Atlantic is ever so present in the lines of each story in Crocker’s first book.
The stories are quirky and charming. In “Dealing with infestation,” a young school teacher struggles with crawlers at home while trying to hook up with a colleague from school. In “The Landlord,” a young server is close to eviction and will face the pressures and perils of trying to hang on to her apartment. The characters are conflicted, unsure, and anxious, as most humans likely are. They are also delightfully sexual in an unfiltered and fiercely honest way.
Crocker has an element of style which is to conclude stories with a cliffhanger ending. For the short story format, it works wonders. She leads us through the intricate and personal snapshot of somebody’s life, and then it ends. Not their life, of course, but the glimpse we get. While the account of their story winds down, we know that the characters keep on keeping on with whatever circumstances they are facing.
It is refreshing to engage with short stories that are crisp and feel real: Barrelling Forward was a great discovery, and gives hope that Eva Crocker has more writing coming out in the future.