Book Review | Whirl Away by Russell Wangersky

Authour:whirl away
Russell Wangersky
Paperback, 224 pages
Publication date:
March 17th 2012
Thomas Allen Publishers
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Short story collection examines when coping skills slip – denial, pragmatism, or delusion. A caretaker of a prairie amusement park, the lone occupant of a collapsing Newfoundland town, a travelling sports drink marketer with a pressing need to get off the road, an elevator inspector who finds himself losing his marriage amid sensuous food gourmandizing – all spin out of control into new worlds.


“The bolt came through the open back window of the truck. It came in end over end. From a distance, if anyone had been watching it, concentrating, it might actually have appeared that the truck was doing the tumbling, and that the bolt was flying perfectly straight.” (p. 1)

If you’re like me, and by that I mean someone who has to commute a lot on a daily basis then you may understand the appeal of short stories. The length and the fact that each story can be read on its own means that you’ll be able to enjoy them during short as well as long trips.

Whirl Away by Russell Wangersky is a good example of this done well. Each of the stories are quite short in length, but they really draw you in. The stories also pack quite the emotional punch and the endings though fulfilling do make you want to read more. The plot of the stories were all really interesting mostly because of how Wangersky writes his characters; though they all are or do crazy, despicable things the reader cannot help but be intrigued. This is because the characters are shown at their most vulnerable moments when their life has spun out of their control thus making them very human and easy to relate to.

“…and I suddenly believed that all the books had been lying about love, that it wasn’t really endless and perfect and available after all. I also realized that I’d actually known this for a while, although I couldn’t pick out the exact day when I’d discovered it.” (p. 78)

Like most short story collections, there were some stories that were more enjoyable for me than others. My personal favourites were “911” and “No Harm, No Foul” both of which were really interesting. I also loved “Family Law” which is about a divorce lawyer who is having an affair while his marriage is falling apart. I liked it for its observations of various other case studies of divorce settlements and I thought the ending to this particular story was the perfect finishing touch. I also liked the fact that the story “Family Law” was connected to another story in the book, as it was interesting to see the different perspectives.

Although there were one or two stories I couldn’t really get into, overall Whirl Away was very strong collection of short stories. Wangersky’s writing is very captivating and solid throughout which made each of the stories satisfying in their own right. If you don’t mind short stories that aren’t uplifting, and like your stories to be about tragedy, loss, regret and sometimes death then you should definitely check out Whirl Away by Russell Wangersky.

If you like this book, you’ll love: This Will Be Difficult to Explain, and Other Stories by Johanna Shively Skibsrud

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.