First Fiction Fridays: Bad Endings

Carleigh Baker is here to crack a joke at the end of the world. In her debut collection Bad Endings (Anvil Press), an assortment of hilariously down-and-out characters scattered across British Columbia’s “urban-ish spaces” discover the natural environment only as it clings to life, and put aside their own yearnings and failings to really look.


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Bad Endings (Anvil Press, 2017)Who:Carleigh Baker is a Metis/Icelandic writer. She was born and raised on the traditional, ancestral, unceded territories of the Stó:lõ people. Her work has appeared in subTerrain, PRISM International, Joyland, and This Magazine. She won subTerrain‘s Lush Triumphant Award for short fiction in 2012, and was nominated for the Journey Prize in 2014. Her book reviews and critical writing have appeared in The Globe & Mail, The Malahat Review, The Goose, and EVENT magazine. She currently lives as a guest on the traditional, ancestral, unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. Why you need to read this now:The world might be ending and, from many angles, things certainly seem to be getting bad, so why not make a little light in all this dark? That’s Carleigh Baker’s m.o. in this funny and engaging collection of short stories that dive deep into the darkness. Baker’s women are all sorts of bad, and not the extra-slice-of-cake-eating, shouldn’t have had that last glass of wine bad. No, these women (and sometimes men) are the pleasant-enough marriage ending, tough-question asking, self-probing, bathtub flooding, salmon beating, fingernail grating kind of bad.Things don’t always work out. There doesn’t always have to be a reason why. Bad Endings provides you with exactly the type of characters you’ll need as temperatures rise and tensions increase.From the Tudor mansions of English Bay to the coastal fish hatcheries that dot the shore, across the ocean to an island cabin getaway and back again to a different sort of mansion in the British Properties, Baker takes her readers on a pseudo-tour of BC’s urban-ish spaces. Even when the setting is more rural than urban, some backroads bee farm or the bright white North, the hum of the city is still present in her characters’ longing for the comforts of urban living, contrasted against their deeper pull to understand something about the land.Warning: you too may be tempted to create your own ecosystem in a worn out bathtub and wait out the drought. There is something familiar about these characters’ earnest yearning for a return to the earth, for finding some sort of balance in their lives. Amidst the environmental destruction that confronts us everyday, it seems quaint and enchanting when the main character in ‘Grey Water’ suggests to her lover that they might need “Just a bathub.” As if fostering the nitrogen cycle and tending the moss garden might be the keys to post-modern, near-apocalyptic romance, or How to Love when the End is Near. And what is the end? And what is the point of any of this? Baker taps lightly on these questions in the way you must handle a not-yet angry swarm of bees. Yet, even when treading carefully stings are bound to happen if you don’t squash the bee in time.You will be delighted by the way Baker plays with language, metaphor and motif. “What’s going to happen when the earth runs dry?” One of her characters muses. Indeed, what is going to happen? X plus Y:Bad Endings combines the offbeat awkward relationship expertise of Nora Ephron (and her spot on sense of place) with the wild, weird and unafraid clatter of Hunter S. Thompson, sprinkled occasionally with the delicate urgency of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Think “Moving On: A Love Story” with a little more grit and a hell of a lot more salmon. It’s Grunge Lit set to the soundtrack of the sea. 
* * *Many thanks to Cara at Anvil Press for sharing Bad Endings with us (which is available now!). For more debut fiction, click here