Zero Gravity

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The Porcupine's Quill, 2006 - Fiction - 182 pages

The stories in "Zero Gravity" are set in British Columbia, mostly in Vancouver. While the stories are not linked explicitly, they are connected by setting -- elevated to the status of character -- and by recurrent themes such as the fragility of home; the lure and alienation of nature in a technological world; and the problems of identity and spiritual grounding in a constantly transforming society.

As Canada's newest metropolis, Vancouver is largely a city of immigrants: people from other countries as well as other provinces. A number of stories in "Zero Gravity" explore the impact of homelessness in this broad sense: the dislocation caused by having to create a new home some vast distance from one's birthplace, and in a city where so many people are in the same situation. In the lightly comic opening story, a woman from Toronto makes the westward journey across Canada, following the road taken by pioneers and migrants since the opening-up of BC. In Vancouver she befriends an Iraqi computer programmer from Winnipeg, with whom she attends an East Vancouver rave sponsored by a collective called The Cosmic Elfs'. In another story, a long-time immigrant from the Baltic has her life disturbed by an archaeological discovery in her back yard.

Vancouver's location offers a stunning juxtaposition of city and nature, and this constant contrast -- beautiful, strange, and overwhelming at times -- affects the psyches of those who live there -- or so "Zero Gravity" aims to suggest. In one story, for example, a woman is forced to confront her dishonesty and desperation on a mismanaged expedition to Garibaldi Park. In another, an aspiring filmmaker loses a young child, and possibly his soul, on an eerie, abandoned strip of beach adjacent to the Vancouver airport.

Problems of lost identity and spiritual grounding pervade Western culture. Vancouver, in its freshness, is a city of lyrical promise that attracts those searching for answers. Yet it's also a city whose roots are still young, and this leads to insecurity. The stories in "Zero Gravity" show characters struggling with radical changes to their lives, either imposed by accident or, more mysteriously, surging up from within themselves. In one story, for example, a woman working for a downtown Eastside shelter starts to lose her sense of purpose and mental stability.


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User Review  - twoods9 - LibraryThing

I enjoyed a few of the stories, but none of them were particularly powerfull - they didn't really leave me wanting more. Read full review


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About the author (2006)

Sharon English was born in London, Ontario, where, for a while, she excelled mostly at memorizing song lyrics and episodes of Star Trek. She eventually studied English literature at the University of Western Ontario and at the University of British Columbia, where she dropped out of a Ph.D. program to pursue fiction writing. Since then she has held various jobs, and now works as a teacher and freelance editor in Toronto.

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