Order in the Universe


152 pages
ISBN 0-920544-71-1
DDC C813'.54





Reviewed by Boyd Holmes

Boyd Holmes is an editor with Dundurn Press.


Order in the Universe is the fifth book from an elegant and thoughtful
fiction stylist. This collection of 10 short stories should not surprise
Ross’s admirers: as in her previous publications, the stories are
often set in rural Canada, the characters are seemingly ordinary, and
the subjects are the secrets, silences, and tensions between human
beings. While exploring these themes, Ross commands a tight, controlled,
and vivid voice: “Eyes watch from stores; she stumbles among rocks and
high grasses, and when she falls, her face comes up against a slab of
wood. Wood blanched bone white but wave-washed and soaked with grey
rain. Wood musty and bloated, rotten, and her lungs fill with the smell
of green wood smouldering in black fires.”

Ross’s collection is, however, flawed. The conclusion of “One
Hundred Years Since the Birth of Kafka,” with its heavy-handedness and
near-didacticism, is unworthy of such a profoundly subtle author.
Similarly, Ross should know better than to write, as she does in “An
Old Man,” “What does a man think when he knows his whole life has
been wrong?” Ross is also guilty of using, if only occasionally, that
most secretarial piece of punctuation, the slash: “But he will have
heard from neighbours/relatives/friends. . . .” This technique does
tighten the prose, but it also gives the writing an unnecessarily choppy
flow. Finally, the opening paragraph of “The Burial Place,” although
stylistically simple, is also pointlessly confusing. Ross may be a
notable author, but in this book she marches behind the first rank.


Ross, Veronica., “Order in the Universe,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 26, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/10998.