Friday, June 20, 2008

'Down to a Sunless Sea'

by Mathias B. Freese

Fiction/Short Stories, 2007 (stories published previously in various publications, 1974 - 2007)
Wheatmark, trade pb, 118 p.
Interviews with the author here and here.
Read more on the author's blog.
Down to a Sunless Sea plunges the reader into uncomfortable situations and into the minds of troubled characters. Each selection is a different reading experience – poetic, journalistic, nostalgic, wryly humourous, and even macabre. An award-winning essayist and historical novelist, Mathias B. Freese brings the weight of his twenty-five years as a clinical social worker and psychotherapist into play as he demonstates a vivid understanding of – and compassion toward – the deviant and damaged.
As is often the case with a collection of short stories, whether an anthology by different authors or all by one author, as the case with this book, I liked some of the stories more than others. But the blurb on the back cover (above) that states that this book “plunges the reader into uncomfortable situations and into the minds of troubled characters” is a very apt description, and what appealed to me about the book in the first place.
One of the most difficult stories to read was I’ll Make It, I Think, in the voice of a crippled young man. Knowing that it’s based on the author’s crippled cousin makes it even more heart-wrenching. My favourite story was Alabaster, in which a young boy meets an old woman, a Holocaust survivor, in the park. Little Errands, about doubting yourself, was one I could certainly relate to. I can’t count how many times I’ve worried that I haven’t locked the door, or turned off the gas for the stove, or something similar. I also enjoyed the dark humour of The Chatham Bear, apparently based on true events. And I felt sorry for young Edward, in Mortise and Tenon, his mother forcing her opinions on him, and denying his individuality.
All in all I think the author has done a wonderful job tapping into, and exploring, human nature. He neither condones, nor condemns, he simply tells the stories, letting the reader take from them what they will.
I missed Billy not because we were close, that is nostalgia; I missed Billy because he was part of an arc in my life, a player in it, part of the context that explains me to me. (Billy’s Mirrored Wall)
My Rating: 3.5/5
(#25 for 2008)

Thank you very much to the author for giving me the chance to read and review this title. Not many are willing to send overseas so it's especially appreciated.

Also reviewed at:
Musings of a Bookish Kitty
My Own Little Reading Room
Puss Reboots
J. Kaye's Book Blog
Tip of the Iceberg


  1. I'd love to read this one! Not only do I love reading short stories, they sound very much like the kind I like to read.

  2. Great review, Nat. You captured the essence of the book well. Alabaster was one of my favorite stories as well.

  3. Glad you liked this one. I turned the author down because I was overrun with review books at the time, but now I wish I'd snatched it up!

  4. Teresa- I think you probably would enjoy these stories.

    Wendy- Thanks. I always feel that my reviews don't quite compare to others, like yours or Nymeth's, but I try. :)

    Andi- Being overrun with review books sounds pretty good though. ;)

  5. I finally got around to reading this collection! I added a link to your review on my review post today.


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