Drought and Other Stories


149 pages
ISBN 1-896951-26-0
DDC C813'.6





Reviewed by Susan Patrick

Susan Patrick is a librarian at Ryerson University in Toronto.


In her first collection of short stories for adults, award-winning
children’s nonfiction author Jan Thornhill displays a quirky, offbeat
sense of humor, but one with an underlying streak of violence. These
stories are populated mostly by women verging on the weird: women who,
alone or in unhappy relationships, often turn to nature for

The flora and fauna of Ontario are very much present in these stories
and in the lives of the characters. In “Violation,” a suicidal
goldfish is released into Lake Ontario, symbolizing a woman’s role in
her deteriorating marriage. In “Life in the Country,” a city woman
isolated in the country rebels by throwing rocks at cows (who are too
domestic) and relates to wild animals by saving their remains, which she
eventually wears in a hat. In “Drought,” another woman isolated in
the country keeps finding mysteriously sawed bones in the woods and has
sexual fantasies about a one-eyed bear hunter she suspects of foul play.

In other stories, a battered woman rationalizes her victimization as
giving her the power to drive her husband to loose control and cause
violence; a prostitute mixes up the contents of containers in her
clients’ refrigerators for revenge; little girls torment insects and
are unwittingly cruel when they mistake a mother’s hirsute baby for a
monkey and offer him bananas. What stays with readers of these memorable
stories are the strangeness of the characters and their situations, and
the vivid depictions of the weather and landscape.


Thornhill, Jan., “Drought and Other Stories,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 29, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/8416.