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Full review in Victoria Times-Colonist

Sonik Spins Dark, Dramatic Tales

Wow. Madeline Sonik’s first collection of stories is an amazing debut. Twenty-five luminous, dense, provocative and heart-wrenching stories take readers all over the map of human emotion. And Sonik often manages the trip in a few short pages that pack a wallop to the solar plexus.

Victoria can add another splendid, writer to its lively writing scene. The stories have a gravity that belles their brevity. Often a story will appear to be cruising along in one direction and then - wham - whiplash as Sonik slams the reader into an excruciating forced aknowledgement of the vagaries of human existence. Love, hate, sex, racism, madness are placed on the pages with exquisite precision, lifting the ordinary into the realm of myth, and making the story itself an icon of life. Children fight with parents who are often loving but inept.

In "Grains of Salt", for example, the narrator tries to cope with her mother's insanity, and her responses strike a solid chord: "Sometimes I wanted to explode, to slap my father and ask him how he could possibly know what she was talking about? I wanted to tell my mother to get out of the house and never come back. It scared." Sonik’s gift lies in seeing the multiplicity of reactions a person can have to any situation.

Mental aberration is often perceived as another way of seeing things, and those people with the ability to see are locked up or drugged or shunned. One of the most lacerating stories is "Home Sick", a twisted account of a relationship between a young girl and her parents. She writes a letter to explain herself. "It is the vanity of this illness that keeps insisting my feelings and memories are correct, that I am not in any way mad, that I am, in fact, quite the opposite, when all along I know this to be quite untrue." What comes out is that she is correct about her feelings and her parents and the hospital are covering up abuse.

Parent-child relationships are generally flawed in Drying the Bones, and Sonik usually takes a sympathetic stance for the child. Powerless and fearful, Sonik’s fictional children try to negotiate the rapids of the river of life. What’s amazing is that so many survive. Resilience is celebrated, but underneath the surface of the stories, Sonik questions the need for that resilience. Weakness is also given its due, and while it causes hardship and pain, weakness, according to Sonik, must be given recognition as it is so much a part of life.

In "The Cherry Tree" an arranged loveless marriage leads to infatuation with another, and ultimately to death. Weakness and desire (sometimes the same) are seen for what they are, but no one gets off without some physical or emotional bloodletting. A short review cannot possibly do justice to this book. It has far too much excellent content and stunning writing - just go get it and read it.
-Candace Fertile, Victoria Times-Colonist