Do You Love Me or What (Sue Woolfe, S&S)
A dancer moves towards clarity; an ill-defined friendship threatens to sink a marriage; a strange Florentine love affair awakens a traveller’s longing for home. Across eight stories and a cast of unconventional characters, Sue Woolfe’s Do You Love Me or What? pulls the reader into tales of love, loss and longed-for connection—each with an eye for the unusual and a twist in the tale. In ‘Passport’, an abandoned daughter unearths the sad truth behind her father’s distance. ‘Her Laughter Like a Song of Freedom’ has socially awkward lovers floundering in near comical misunderstanding. ‘Small Talk’ depicts the Indigenous, non-Indigenous divide, with Woolfe’s well-meaning interloper finding connection in the red dirt of country. Perhaps at pains to avoid cliché, the collection instead has an awkwardly rendered sense of oddness. The word play and characterisation feel overly self-conscious, and some plot devices are foreshadowed in a clunky way. But whatever its flaws, this collection certainly strives to cover the all-too-familiar path of love in new and refreshing ways. And fans of Woolfe—the acclaimed author of numerous books, including Leaning Towards Infinity (1996)—will no doubt find this collection an interesting departure.
Melissa Cranenburgh is a Melbourne-based freelance writer, editor and broadcaster