By Lauren Donnelly
VANCOUVER – Imagine if your conversations with your best friend were published as short stories. The breakups, the random musings, the chance encounters on transit. Delusions of Grandeur is just that. Janet Ford and Carmen Leah are Canadian artists and best friends who live on opposite sides of the country. Ford writes from Vancouver about her experiences with addiction and mental illness, and from Toronto, Leah reflects on the consequences of mundane moments in everyday life.
Ford’s characters speak from the depths of addiction and mental illness while Leah’s characters grapple with how to live with them. Juxtaposed, their stories tell both sides of the story. The result is a relatable, albeit dishevelled, account of young Canadian life.
These characters are anti-heroes and -heroines, and though it isn’t uplifting material, it’s unapologetically honest – that’s what makes it so good. The collection tells stories of everyday cowardice and brief sparks of bravery. Ford’s “Sober” is a microcosm of the cycle of addiction. Waking up next to an enabling partner, last night’s makeup etched under her eyes, the heroine decides to make a change. And she’s determined that this time, it’ll stick. Ford unflinchingly describes how low rock bottom needs to be to make sobriety tempting. In Leah’s “Hospitals,” Claire’s dealing with the symptoms of her MS, her friend Sam is suicidal, her other friend has overdosed, and her boyfriend is abusive. Surrounded by other people’s misery, she learns that “things [get] better. But first they [get] worse.”
Nestled against each other, Ford’s and Leah’s stories dialogue with one another. One asks a question and the story that follows responds. But like any good conversation between friends, the exchanges are complementary, proving that we’re never alone in our illusions of self-importance, no matter how different our individual failings.book review, Carmen Leah, Delusions of Grandeur, Janet Ford, short stories