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This Cake is for the Party by Sarah Selecky
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This Cake is for the Party

by Sarah Selecky

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his collection of short stories from Toronto author Selecky marks her publishing debut and introduces her as a young writer to watch.

Set in various locations across Canada, but especially in Ontario, the stories have varied themes and feature characters that include a young man struggling with whether or not to report a good friend of his wife as an unfit mother, a naïve young woman trying to launch a network marketing business, and a woman at her deceased neighbour’s yard sale. Her characters and themes are universal and guaranteed to make you squirm in recognition.

Selecky’s writing is clean and unpretentious, and I predict a bright future for her. Recommended.

Read this if: you’re looking for a fresh, new voice in Canadian fiction; or if you enjoy short stories in modern settings. 4 stars

Note: Visit Sarah’s website and sign up for her free daily writing prompts. They’re brilliant. ( )
  ParadisePorch | Jul 12, 2014 |
These ten short stories were all good reading for me. Selecky is able to write a very satisfying story without the need to tie up all the loose ends. She seems to me to also be very good at introducing tension into the story - a palpable tension between characters. All these stories involve people and situations that could be described as away from the mainstream...the people are slightly wacky or their work is unusual or they belong to families that have unusual behaviour. Of course, that's all by comparison with my experience; and I don't live in the region where these stories are set. It's a pity Ms Selecky seems to have rested on the laurels of this one publication and launched herself as a creative writing training business. A pity for me as a reader anyway. Maybe her students are grateful. ( )
  oldblack | Mar 22, 2014 |
My favourite was the last one, "Ten Thousand Buddhas."

Excellent short stories that convey so much character and background with such little narration. It's in the dialogue (which is great, because she doesn't even use quotation marks). Every story starts in the middle of the story, but they also end in a way that you know the story is not finished. If you had a telescope and could zoom into people's lives at random, these might be the lives you encounter.

And such variety! ( )
  LDVoorberg | Apr 7, 2013 |
The Short of It:

Never has such an unassuming collection of stories held my attention from beginning to end.

The Rest of It:

I love quiet stories and if they center around relationships, even better. From the very first page, I found myself falling right into this book. You know that feeling? That feeling where everything around you stands still and all you can focus on is the book in front of you? That is the feeling I had while reading these stories. When this book was in my hands, nothing else seemed to matter.

There are ten stories in this collection, all ranging in tone but clearly the party in question is nowhere to be found. In Throwing Cotton, we meet Anna and Sanderson and their friends Flip and Shona as they meet-up at a lake cottage for a little holiday. As Anna and Sanderson head into the next phase of their marriage, that of children, it becomes apparent that Anna has doubts. What should be a glorious time, now suddenly becomes something else. In Standing Up for Janey, Bonnie throws a dinner party to celebrate the engagement of her best friend Janey. Shortly before the party, Janey admits to Bonnie that she’s recently cheated on Milt. With this knowledge, Bonnie is forced to host as if nothing is amiss. What should be tragic tale, somehow ends up being funny in Selecky’s hands.

What these stories have in common is that these people are normal, functioning adults dealing with everyday problems. Selecky’s ability to take everyday objects or situations and make them unique is inspiring to say the least. She writes, like my brain thinks. Quiet observations not always spoken or shared out loud.

I savored each and every story in the collection and when I reached the end, I felt compelled to go right back and read them again.

An interesting little tidbit for you. The story that gives this collection its name was not included in the collection itself! This Cake is for the Party was a story that Selecky had written before this collection even came to be. It was short, only five pages long. It was actually the basis for another story which happens to be in the book. However, when this collection was put together, including it would have meant that it was the only linked story in the collection and Selecky felt that it put too much pressure on one of the characters so it was left out. I was lucky enough to receive a copy of the story and although I loved it, I see why it was not included. Interesting, huh?

Because I was so impressed with the writing as a whole and totally fell head over heels for the collection, I went to Selecky’s website and signed up for her Little Bird writing prompts. These prompts are offered in conjunction with her Little Bird Writing Contest. Each day, a writing prompt arrives in my inbox and I take ten minutes of every morning to write a response. I’m not sure I will ever submit anything to the contest, but for now I am enjoying the prompts. If you find yourself struggling to write creatively and just don’t have the time, you might want to try these prompts. Ten minutes a day. That’s it. Even I can do that and who knows? Maybe one day I will have a story as good as one of the ones in the book!

As you can probably guess, I am still thinking about these stories and can’t seem to stop talking about them. If you get the opportunity to pick up a copy, you won’t be sorry.

For more reviews, visit my blog: Book Chatter. ( )
  tibobi | Mar 21, 2013 |
Have decided this year to read as many books of short stories as I can. Why? I am trying to decipher what exactly it takes to make a good short story collection and to discover the differences in each book of stories. Short stories seem a little more personal, maybe tells a little more about who an author is and how they view things as a person. In other words short stories cut away much of the fluff and fauna. In this collection the author writes stories about average occurrences many people will experience in their lives. They flow well, the conversations and scenes are like those many of us have in our lives. In some of them, though, I would be reading along, comfortable with what was occurring when plop! it was over. So I am thinking I do not understand these endings, what are they supposed to mean? Could be some of them were just over my head but I do believe it is to the author's credit that I was really trying to figure it out. ( )
  Beamis12 | Jan 15, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
Selecky harbours deep affection for her characters, combined with effortless grace; there is truly not a weak link to be found. She has a keen ear for understated dialogue, and a gift for unusual description, always a plus: “a round, hollow sound comes from Flip, who is trying to hide his laugh in his wineglass. It sounds like the fossilized call of a loon.” The stories, taken together, do suffer a certain degree of sameness in their rhythms, an overall softness that may disguise Selecky’s very real skill in construction. But should it be a mark against an author to have a distinctive voice at all? At one point in the story ‘Prognosis,’ a character exclaims, “I can’t explain it, but we should celebrate.” The same can be said for This Cake is for the Party.
 
Short fiction collection :A very tasty confection, crumbs and all .The cover of Sarah Selecky’s debut fiction collection is striking in its insistence upon ruin, lack and nostalgia: A jaggedly reassembled smashed plate is home to a cluster of crumbs, a consumption-smeared fork and the counter-insistent title declaration, This Cake is for the Party. And while the collection explores sites of emotional and physical volatility, Selecky sinks her teeth into something far more powerful than the violence of loss: She skillfully wrests devastation from its customary gloom of lamentation and regret, and bares its overwhelming beauty.Selecky’s stories are also ridiculously witty.Compelling, clever and exceptionally crafted, This Cake really delivers.

 
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"Shortlisted for the acclaimed 2010 Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Frank O'Connor Short Story Award, and the Commonwealth Writer's Prize Best First Book Award, This Cake Is for the Party has received consistent rave reviews praising debut writer Sarah Selecky. In these ten stories, linked frequently by the sharing of food, Sarah Selecky reaffirms the life of everyday situations with startling significance. For upmarket women's fiction readers that love stories which reflect the joys and pitfalls of marriage, fidelity, fertility, and relationship woes, this collection is a conversation starter. This Cake Is for the Party reminds us that the best parts of our lives are often the least flashy. Reminiscent of early Margaret Atwood, with echoes of Lisa Moore and Ali Smith, these absorbing stories are about love and longing, that touch us in a myriad of subtle and affecting ways.With more than 10,000 copies sold in Canada, where she was named the CBC Book Award's Best New Writer, Sarah Selecky proves she is an exciting new voice with a promising future"-- "Shortlisted for the acclaimed 2010 Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Frank O'Connor Short Story Award, and the Commonwealth Writer's Prize Best First Book Award, This Cake Is for the Party has received consistent rave reviews praising debut writer Sarah Selecky. In these ten stories, linked frequently by the sharing of food, Sarah Selecky reaffirms the life of everyday situations with startling significance. For upmarket women's fiction readers that love stories which reflect the joys and pitfalls of marriage, fidelity, fertility, and relationship woes, this collection is a conversation starter. This Cake Is for the Party reminds us that the best parts of our lives are often the least flashy. Reminiscent of early Margaret Atwood, with echoes of Lisa Moore and Ali Smith, these absorbing stories are about love and longing, that touch us in a myriad of subtle and affecting ways. With more than 10,000 copies sold in Canada, where she was named the CBC Book Award's Best New Writer, Sarah Selecky proves she is an exciting new voice with a promising future"--… (more)

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