Pauls by Jess Taylor

★★★★☆

I was super excited to receive this copy of Pauls by Jess Taylor, as she is a local author from Toronto. It came wrapped prettily in blue gift paper, which was a lovey touch from the author.

Pauls is a short story collection about modern 20-something-year-olds living in a big city, going on about their business of relationships, both platonic and romantic. The stories are poignant and endearing, and even though I found them truthful because I am also a 20-something living in Toronto, I am sure most generations could also relate. After all, these type of complicated, emotional experiences never change, no matter the period or age.

My favourite story was “The Letters”. It stood out because it was about an older generation recalling a younger life. It was bitter-sweet, sad, and unlike some of the other stories in the collection, had strong, distinctive characters. It also had the strongest conclusion. The ending is always the hardest part, and in most of Taylor’s pieces the ending felt abrupt and undecided, but “The Letters” had meaningful closure. Some other favourites were “Claire’s Fine”, “We Want Impossible Things”, “Bellow the Spoon Tree”, and of course, the opening “Pauls”.

The weakest story was the longest and the last. In some ways “Degenerates” was nice because it brought some of the characters from the other stories together, binding them, tying up strings of different people’s lives. But it felt much too dragged out, was repetitive and occasionally bordered on melodrama. I do not think it should have been left out of the collection, and other reviewers seemed to love it, but to me, it was definitely not the strongest nor the most touching.

Overall, I recommend this short story collection. Taylor is a fantastic young author, with poetic and occasionally magical writing which I would like to see some more.

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