Carleigh Baker likes to make light in the dark. Whether plumbing family ties, the end of a marriage, or death itself, she never lets go of the witty, the ironic, and perhaps most notably, the awkward. Despite the title, the resolution in these stories isn’t always tragic, but it’s often uncomfortable, unexpected, or just plain strange. Character digressions, bad decisions, and misconceptions abound.
While steadfastly local in her choice of setting, Baker’s deep appreciation for nature takes a lot of these stories out of Vancouver and into the wild. Salmon and bees play reoccurring roles in these tales, as do rivers. Occasionally, characters blend with their animal counterparts, adding a touch of magic realism. Nature is a place of escape and attempted convalescence for characters suffering from urban burnout. Even if things get weird along the way, as Hunter S. Thompson said, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”
In Bad Endings, Baker takes troubled characters to a moment of realization or self-revelation, but the results aren’t always pretty.
PRAISE FOR BAD ENDINGS:
“Her characters possess an abundance of hard-luck stories, true, but she writes them as sometimes wrong and sometimes foolish and hence eminently human in their fallibility.”
— The Georgia Straight
“Things are on the edge, askew, as they are in every story in Carleigh Baker’s debut collection, which features rushing rivers and waves splashing on the shore … Because bad endings make for good endings, story-wise, leaving possibilities open, the characters on the cusp of something, always something around the next corner, a blessing and a curse.”
– Pickle Me This
“The dichotomies of bad news and good news, reality and fantasy, the banal and the sublime, are in Baker’s debut a patchwork quilt of intermingling patterns. It takes a brave voice to, for example, pair the stylistic pyrotechnics of “Postcards in a Gonzo Journalist Voice” with the anti-climactic, but weirdly satisfying, “Moosehide,” where the expected epiphany of urban-dwellers exploring nature turns that skewed mirror of Baker’s to her readers. There never seem to be any answers in the stories in Bad Endings; rather, the questions Baker poses are of such quiet magnitude that we don’t need them.”
— Matrix Magazine
“Baker is a skillful, sensitive writer with an uncanny gift for subtle, dark humor and the ability to assume the viewpoint of her characters, whether a small child contemplating death; a father watching as his pregnant daughter’s abusive marriage spirals out of control; a woman running from a “good” husband; a woman just released from the psych ward who takes a look at what’s out there and decides she may not be ready after all; or people in relationships as superficial and fragile as a skiff of ice at the edge of a lake that the pale sun cannot seem to warm. There is no judgment or condemnation in these stories, but a tender, deep savoring of the quirks that make us human.”
— Foreword Magazine
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