Monday, August 29, 2011

I recently read Shanna Germain's collection of stories, Beneath Sea and Sky (available from

In one story, she writes of a woman who's having an affair with her husband - her husband of when they first met, full of lust and spontinaeity, who she's procured through time travel, as her in-the-now husband has grown fastidious and joyless and full of contempt for her. He even hates her a little, she thinks. I found it poignant and sad and heartbreaking, and it made so much sense.

What would I do, if I could go back. What would I suffer again, to try and fix my mistakes, the mistakes of others? The list is a little overwhelming to me, the choices too enormous. How to secure happiness, with only the knowledge of what went wrong, not how to make it right?

Could I go back to 12, and convince my A-cupped mother to buy me bras with underwiring then, instead of waiting til 15, and maybe manage to stop my burgeoning D cup boobs from sagging? Could I get her to take me to a pool where I could do laps twice a week, to WeighWatchers, and learn how to be fit and thin, thereby boosting my burgeoning lack of self esteem, thereby avoiding all the scoriatingly embarrassing desperate behaviour of my teenage years? Would I change schools? Pursue success more ambitiously? I'd go to 19 and not pull out that random, fateful hair that catapulted me into a decade and a half of trichotillomania, that's for sure.

Would I choose not to start a relationship with Axl, knowing where it would lead? Or break up sooner, that time we thought about it but were too scared? Break our hearts then, when there was still time to fix them? Could I convince my mother to deal with her cancer differently? Would it have a better or worse outcome? Could I tell her something that would help her manage her marriage/break-up better, so it didn't end in misery and death?

Would I not get married, would I get married sooner? Would I be able to take back the conception of my children? Could I make that decision? Could I have any more courage to go after what I really wanted? Would I be able to do it better, filled with prior knowledge?

I'm glad I don't have to answer these questions, though it's frightening to think that the same sort of decisions are in my hands now, in terms of the actual future. I just don't know what's coming. I suppose that's why I'm not doing anything. Action is so loaded and terrifying. Well, for me, who has long felt convinced that whatever course of action I choose, it will be the wrong one.

So yeah, that story, sheesh. Having said  that, the collection is powerful and beautiful and I heartily recommend it, but it's somewhat dark erotica and doesn't pull any punches, so, I've warned you. Shanna is a brave writer, and these took my breath away. 


Annie said...

I must read this book. thank you for introducing us.

Rhi@FlourChild said...

I have to read it too. Though I suspect it will do my head in, as it has yours...
I've been thinking about it all day.
There are lots of little things I would go back to and change, but I can't help but think that if you change just one tiny thing, that I wouldn't have the kids that I have today. And I wouldn't, for anything, wish to change that. (Though at 3 in the morning when I am up for the 2nd time already, I might disagree)
Anyways, I think I will track down a copy and read it. Thank you! x

Shanna Germain said...

Thanks so much for the nice words about the stories. I have to admit that story was a hard one to write, because I know that I was thinking about my own ended marriage (I won't say failed, because it was good for a long time before it wasn't good anymore). Oddly, the story started as an 'affair story' -- I wrote the entire first draft before I realized that she wasn't having sex with a stranger, but with a man she'd known for a very long time...

Jo said...

It did feel so real, Shanna. In the way so many people grow apart, I suppose, grow into something different than they intended, without any understanding of how to get themselves back?

I do say failed, because my ending does feel so like a failure to me... an avoidable descent we failed to check or reroute or rescue, maybe.

We get trapped in our parents patterns, I suppose.

Of course it's not a failure if you move onwards and upwards and on to the new thing, rejuvinated by the change instead of being dragged down with it. This story made me think a lot.

I love how the lover is both on the cusp of becoming what he already has, and sympathetic to both his future wife and his future self. It's very strong.

Mwa said...

What if is a dangerous game to play, I find.