We So Seldom Look on Love


209 pages
ISBN 0-921051-70-0
DDC C813'.54





Reviewed by Steve Pitt

Steve Pitt is a Toronto-based freelance writer and an award-winning journalist. He has written many young adult and children's books, including Day of the Flying Fox: The True Story of World War II Pilot Charley Fox.


When Gowdy writes sentences like “if offering my body to dead men is a
crime, I’d like to know who the victim is,” she is risking more than
a tart letter from the Attorney General. What starts off as an
in-your-face challenge to read on could quickly become strained and
ultimately boring if the author’s writing skills were not up to her

These stories are not boring. Gowdy is not the first author to use
physically unique characters in fiction. Mark Twain began a book about
Siamese twins. Victor Hugo wrote a famous novel about a hunchback.
Charles Dickens built a career on grotesque characters. What makes
Gowdy’s stories exceptional is the reluctant empathy she manages to
draw out of the reader for each of her characters. Most of us have felt
the terror of being the new kid in the schoolyard. Most of us have had
an impossible relative we have desperately wanted to kill. Gowdy merely
takes these normal situations to the brink, and then, with a nudge of
the pelvis, pushes the reader over.

The heart of all these stories is how an individual’s worth is still
determined by accident of birth. Even in 1993 objectification by sex,
social class, and physical characteristics is inescapable. In an age
when it is now politically correct to call a writer of stories an
author, regardless of gender, it is still no accident that the author of
these stories is a woman and one whose own incidental personal
appearance often draws as much comment as her superb writing skills.

What makes this collection of stories work, then, is the voice of
experience speaking. Gowdy’s biting humor and teeth-grating ironies
are not flashy card tricks but real magic.


Gowdy, Barbara., “We So Seldom Look on Love,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 15, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/13143.