A city suburb, 1980. The front of propriety, the freakish stillness and the bush parties. This is the home of Germaine Stevens, a social misfit who thinks she's struck ultimate cool when she's accepted into her preppie high school's only counter-culture group, the Rockers. Yet has she really just traded one kind of conformity for another? And is she still a loser?
Her friends are desperate characters: Regina's on the road to ruin, Bono's more boy than girl, and Jackie's postering her bedroom into a rock'n'roll tomb. Yet beneath the party-hardy attitude, no one is as disaffected as they seem, or want to be.
`Christopher wasn't just religious. His father actually ran a church out on Main Street East called the Holy Annunciation of Ebenezer. He'd once been a priest. Now, from the sounds of it, he was a wacko. Christopher had six older brothers and sisters and shared a bedroom with two of them. His high school, called Wellington Christian Central, was a freak unit of only three hundred kids. Families had to donate money to keep it going.
``Do your parents make you go?'' I asked.
``It'd be hard not to.''
``But do you like it?''
``Sure.'' I almost hung up then. ``I mean,'' he went on, ``it's school, right? Do you like yours?''
``Fuck no.'' We laughed. I told him about MacKenzie. ``It's a school of the bored and the damned,'' I said, ``but I'm one of the saved.'' What the hell was I saying and why did I talk like that? I described the hordes of preppie girls in Daniel Hechter sweat shirts and pastel hair bands, the ones Regina and I outrage with sex and drug talk. I told him about my wild friends on the smoking pit who sell hash oil and bennies and orange microdot and how we all get fried and have a laugh riot. I claimed I could quaff a six-pack and still talk normally to my parents, that Regina's nickname was Blowjob Queen (though it's not exactly true). I wanted Christopher to freak out and scamper back to his Jesus puff in the sky, but at the end of the conversation I said, ``So, do you regret kissing me?''
He asked when he could come over.' (from `Bread and Stones')
In a voice that ranges from tough to achingly vulnerable, Sharon English powerfully conveys the anger, lust and absurdity that spiral into one girl's growing fight against the tuned-out numbness of her world.
`English's first collection adds weight to the premise that the linked short story is our strongest form. She risks the hard discipline of remaining in the heart and behind the eyes of a suburban teenager, and with no narrative cheating. She pulls it off.'
- Steven Heighton
`The Wellington of Sharon English's debut collection is a city unmistakably like her hometown of London, Ont. A linked-story exploration of teenage angst and folly, this book would likely make its author the main event at her high-school reunion - if she dared to show. In the tidy suburb of Greenview, Germaine Stevens joins her friend Jackie in a darkened bedroom. Jackie may have "an idiot" for a dad - but a useful one. He's a drug wholesaler with a station wagon full of samples. To the raw tones of Meat Loaf, the girls pop tabs of Probene "for the relief of stress, anxiety and mental agitation." Barely graduated from building snow forts, the two now collaborate on bedroom shrines to flamed-out rock stars. Jimi Hendrix gets a black baby doll mummified in gauze; Jim Morrison sulks from a poster with X's taped over his eyes. Germaine ("Germ" to her dearest) is our jaded guide to a life cursed with two-faced parents, laughable teachers and gag-making, uncool schoolmates - such as Debbie, who whispers in French class with minty breath, "It's freaky ... but I really feel Tony's my destiny." She's even got the diamond to prove it.'
- Jim Bartley, the Globe and Mail
Sharon English was born in London, Ontario, where, for a while, she excelled mostly at memorizing song lyrics and episodes of Star Trek. She eventually studied English literature at the University of Western Ontario and at the University of British Columbia, where she dropped out of a Ph.D. program to pursue fiction writing. Since then she has held various jobs, and now works as a teacher and freelance editor in Toronto. Uncomfortably Numb is her first book.