An honest and unaffected collection of human experiences that deftly tackles themes of grief, loss, missed opportunities, and the pain of letting go.
The stories in Michael Melgaard’s poignant debut collection, Pallbearing, offer candid snapshots of life in a small town, where the struggle to make ends meet forces people into desperate choices. In “Little to Lose,” a son confronts his mother over the crushing prison of debt created by her gambling addiction. The aging divorcee in “Coming and Going” spends her days in paranoid pursuit of evidence with which to incriminate her neighbours in the derelict trailer park where she lives. And in “Stewart and Rose,” lifelong friends find love after their respective partners die — and then face loss all over again.
With deceptively spare prose that carries outsized emotional weight and pathos, Melgaard brings his characters to life in sharp-edged portraits and all-too-human dilemmas, creating engaging stories that resonate with honesty and depth, and linger in the imagination.
PRAISE FOR MICHAEL MELGAARD AND PALLBEARING:
“A rich and compelling collection, Pallbearing is a powerfully restrained debut showcasing the craftsmanship and deep emotional intelligence of its author.” — Open Book
“Melgaard’s quiet genius, like so many Canadian short-story writers before him, is in finding remarkable drama in the mundanities that make up an unremarkable life.” — Quill & Quire
“Michael Melgaard’s stories are deceptively still on their surfaces, but just below run cross-currents of the darkest human emotions: fear, rage, and love. Melgaard’s debut collection features characters in desperate situations, attempting to wrangle a drop of sense out of things while accepting or standing up to their fates. The stories in Pallbearing are crisp, ruefully funny, and unsentimental, each one a portrait on a grain of rice. A wonderful debut.” — Michael Redhill, Scotiabank Giller Prize–winning author of Bellevue Square
“These powerful, empathetic stories are about the burdens people carry and the debts they owe — at work and at home, to their friends and family, and sometimes, heaviest of all, to themselves. With remarkable compression and insight, Michael Melgaard cuts straight to the heart of people’s lives — in just a few pages I came to know these characters so well they felt like my own neighbours, and I’ll remember them for a long time. This is a striking debut by a writer to watch.” — Alix Ohlin, Scotiabank Giller Prize–shortlisted author of Dual Citizens
“With DNA traces of Raymond Carver and Kent Haruf, Michael Melgaard’s Pallbearing conjures up a wallop of small-town pathos and dead-end desperation that will leave you shattered. These stories may be deceptively spare in their construction, but they are rich and abundant in their impact.” — Michael Christie, Scotiabank Giller Prize–longlisted author of Greenwood
“Michael Melgaard does the hardest of things: the poetry of the everyday. Tough, heartbreaking, and astute, these stories move with grace through the margins of society, never condescending, never inauthentic. Pallbearing gives voice to the ignored, the invisible, the forgotten, and charges their lives with significance.” — Tamas Dobozy, Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize–winning author of Siege 13
“In spare, muscular prose, Michael Melgaard illuminates the moments, big and small, that make us human. But don’t be fooled by this deceptive simplicity — these stories will sneak up on you and knock the breath from your lungs. Pallbearing is a stunning debut.” — Amy Jones, author of Every Little Piece of Me
“Each of the stories in Pallbearing is its own universe, orbiting around the exquisite edges of joy and sorrow. In prose at once searing and gentle, Michael Melgaard takes us through the infinitely tiny, infinitely vast moments that make up his characters’ lives. In this collection, whole worlds live in the span of a gesture, a deep and riveting kind of magic.” — Amanda Leduc, author of The Miracles of Ordinary Men