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That Tiny Life

There's nothing tiny about the lives depicted in Canadian author Erin Frances Fisher's extraordinary debut story collection, That Tiny Life. The characters are richly drawn, with thoughts, emotions and beliefs that feel simultaneously recognizable and distinctive. The first half of the book is filled with stories that cover a range of subjects, places and time periods. It opens with a stunner called "Valley Floor." Set in the old American West, a man is forced to make two tough decisions: what to do with his work partner, whose leg infection is probably fatal, and how to care for the dying man's toddler daughter. The story's heartbreaking conclusion sets the tone for the elegiac tales to follow.

The title story is another knock-out, set in the future on a space ship aimed for one of Saturn's moons. Starring two pilots, a man and a woman, the story moves through time between the present and the protagonists' early days on Earth. Their memories of those they left behind drive home the idea that even in the vast reaches of space, every human life matters.

The second half of the book contains a novella entitled "The White." It introduces a young teenage girl who tries to escape her unreliable alcoholic father. Meanwhile, an aging falcon trainer attempts to breed the perfect white bird. Their lives become intertwined in deeply affecting ways. Gorgeous from beginning to end, That Tiny Life highlights the universal human needs for connection, love and forgiveness. --Amy Brady, freelance writer and editor