First Fiction Fridays: What You Need by Andrew Forbes

July 17, 2015

What You Need is the rare pleasurable read that’s as relatable as it is ambitious. Each story is a fully formed world that examines human nature in a number of forms: love, jealousy, rage, sorrow. There is a sense of aspiration, of reaching beyond one's means (often to fall short), that is an immediately relatable trait found in all of Forbes's characters.

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What:

What You Need (Invisible Publishing, 2015)

Who:

Andrew Forbes’s work has appeared in The Journey Prize Stories 25, This Magazine, PRISM international, The Puritan, Found Press, and The New Quarterly. Forbes lives in Peterborough, Ontario.

Why you need to read this now:

What You Need is perfect summer reading! It's like carrying 17 novels in your back pocket. That's less than $2 per novel, which is a total steal!

What You Need is the rare pleasurable read that’s as relatable as it is ambitious. Each story is a fully formed world that examines human nature in a number of forms: love, jealousy, rage, sorrow. There is a sense of aspiration, of reaching beyond one's means (often to fall short), that is an immediately relatable trait found in all of Forbes's characters. There's Richie, who lovingly covets his brother's wife. And Jason Hamlin, high school jock trying to tear himself away from his family's legacy. And Ted Cruikshank, who starts to construct an alternate life while on vacation in the Florida Keys.

Families are the central axis of each story. Their internal dynamics and external reverberations echo throughout the pages, along with the gifts and curses that often come with such close ties. Small-town Ontario and suburban living rooms set the tone for the characters to either escape from or surrender to their circumstances. This conflict between the drive to succeed, to stake a claim, and fear of failure is a fine tightrope walked by every story in this collection. We can identify with Forbes's characters, and recognize some of ourselves in the choices made here, from smoking a first cigarette when you know you're bound to be caught to building an atomic bomb in your garage. Well, maybe not a bomb, but who hasn't thought at least once about leaving their current life behind, at the drop of a hat, for a fresh start?

There's a real attention to craft and form in every story found in What You Need, from the one-page punch-to-the-stomach “Lighter Things” to the arching narrative of “The Gamechanger.” And among the deep soul-searching, Forbes embraces a playfulness in both content and language: in “Dorothy,” the narrator's daughter can walk up walls, which both astonishes and exasperates her parents, while “The Marys” captures a tense morning in a paranoid dystopia that will haunt the reader with its realness.

And if solid writing and spectacular stories aren't reason enough for you to pick up a copy, Invisible Publishing is running a Goodreads giveaway until July 31. Enter here for your chance to win a copy!

What other people are saying about What You Need:

"In his debut collection of short fiction, Ontario-based writer Andrew Forbes examines the delicate yet intricate nature of humanity. He does this by looking at the impact decisions or circumstances can have on individuals and those around them. With this as an overarching theme, each story in What You Need links seamlessly with the others, despite the fact that they are all very different on the surface ... What You Need is a strong collection that leaves its reader wanting more." – Quill & Quire

"This collection’s title might seem to boast, but it arrives by way of a question posed in its first story: You got what you need? Our next question, then: What is it? That question permeates these stories, in some cases explicitly, though more often implied ... What You Need is compelling reading." – Globe and Mail

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Thank you to Invisible Publishing, especially Leigh Nash, for sharing What You Need with us.


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