Devin Krukoff’s delicate balancing of hyperbole and psychological realism is the book’s greatest achievement. Flyways is thematically reminiscent of Zsuzsi Gartner’s All the Anxious Girls on Earth, but without the moral didacticism. While Krukoff’s stories share Gartner’s sense of humour, they elicit the reader’s sympathy rather than condemnation. Many of the characters are extreme: a pregnant teenaged girl tries to abort her child by convincing a stranger to push her down an escalator; a fraudulent therapist prescribes extreme sports to his clients to support his own adrenaline addiction; two ex-cons plan a domestic terrorist attack to unsettle Canada’s commodity fetishism. Despite these sensational situations, Krukoff’s stories remain surprisingly plausible. He sustains this illusion by manipulating the prose to reflect a character’s psychological state. Indeed, each chapter’s diction and structure mirrors the protagonist’s mental state—a strategy that creates a cast of fully developed individuals. If the character is simple, the sentence structure is simple and the diction limited. If the character becomes horny, sexual innuendo begins to saturate the prose. For example, an ad-man imagines a more successful future while leering at teenaged girls. The italicized words are my emphasis: “Not that his job was without benefits. He was well-liked in the office. He could surf the internet all day long, he imagined, and his position would have still been more secure than some of the executives’. But, at times, he could not help craving more. He wanted to spearhead a winning campaign, to not only be liked but respected by his colleagues, to see his framed portrait hanging outside the boardroom above the Employee of the Month placard.” The device becomes even more tantalizing when Krukoff has the ad-man dismissing the company’s approach that embedded “an ad with innuendo that was not always meant to be consciously detected,” preferring instead ads that are “blatant and crude.” The subtly self-reflexive scene is not only hilarious, but suggests Krukoff’s aesthetic preferences. A realist can get away with fanciful stories if the prose is slyly crafted. Devin Krukoff won the 2005 Journey Prize for his short story, “The Last Spark.” Flyways affirms his place among Canada’s leading stylists. — Brandon McFarlane
Devin Krukoff’s previous novels, Compensation and Flyways, were shortlisted for multiple Saskatchewan Book Awards. He won the M&S Journey Prize for short fiction in 2005. He lives in Regina, Saskatchewan, with his family.
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