When I first started reading Astray by Emma Donoghue, I wasn't sure about it. In fact, I read the first short story, set it aside and read another book. Then I picked it up again and I'm glad I did.
Emma Donoghue took true stories, sometimes just a line she read, and embellished with characters and details weaving a fiction story out of a thread. The main theme that made the stories cohesive was that at least one character in each was straying in one way or another. They were all astray.
I really liked a couple of the short stories the best. "Counting the Days" alternated between a wife and mother, Jane, crossing the Atlantic from Ireland to Canada to meet her husband who had gone ahead the year before. Then it's her husband Henry's turn to tell his side of things. On the day he is to meet their ship, his plight is serious. He wants to meet the ship, but you'll have to read it to see what happens. Donoghue never let the two get the messages because of the long distance and time it took for mail to reach another country. She used passages from the couple's letters verbatim and they appear in italics in the story.
"The Body Swap" was interesting to me because it dealt with stealing the body of President Lincoln from his tomb in Springfield, Illinois.
And "The Gift" was another short story that never let the characters speak directly. A poor woman gave up her daughter because she couldn't feed her then tried to get her daughter back when her situation improved. But her daughter had been sent on an Orphan Train from New York to Iowa. The adoptive father wanted no involvement by the natural mother. These two people who loved one child communicated in letters, each writing to the Children's Aid Society pleading their case.
These are just a few of the many stories that Donoghue includes. I loved reading the facts of the tidbit of truth where she gathered her inspiration that she at the end of each story.
Book Read: Astray
Author: Emma Donoghue