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Pulse Points (Jennifer Down, Text)

A woman makes a pilgrimage to a forest in Japan to honour her dead brother; a group of young men are out on the prowl in suburban Australia; two siblings remember the year they were taken from their mother to live with their grandparents; a woman takes a road trip with her ex to see his dying mother one last time. With precise and beautiful prose, the short stories in Jennifer Down’s Pulse Points carry an emotional clarity and intensity that is truly impressive. Each vignette is fully realised, a snapshot or ‘pulse point’ of the lives of different people, with a thread of melancholy running throughout. ‘Dogs’, a fascinating but confronting examination of toxic masculinity among young men, feels reminiscent of the classic Puberty Blues. One of the strongest and most self-contained stories is the final one, ‘Coarsegold’, about a couple who escape to a small town but find it is not all they had imagined, as one recovers from her addiction and the other indulges in an affair. Some of the endings in the collection felt a little abrupt, but it’s clearly deliberately designed to mirror the unfinished nature of real life. Highly recommended for fans of literary short fiction, all of the stories in this collection will leave the reader wanting to know more.

Kate McDonell is a primary literacy editor and former bookseller at Dymocks Camberwell


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