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About this book
- Finalist for the Seventh Annual Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Prize - Literary Fiction!
Traci Skuce’s Hunger Moon is a collection of stories that echo with the yearning to be replenished, to be made full. Here are characters at cusp-points in their lives, attempting to shift their trajectories: to cease wrapping up heart's desire in a pink bubble by launching it into the universe. Some turn to ESP, some to a belief in ghosts, some to the future caught inside a glass bottle, each character taking the hackneyed adage “Follow Your Bliss” too literally when they blissfully follow their own storyline.
Emotionally charged, evocative, and lush, Hunger Moon’s thirteen short stories each set out on profound quests to satisfy an emotional hunger.
1. In addition to being one of the story titles, how did the book’s title work for the collection as a whole? What other titles might you choose?
2. The end of “Promontory” is left relatively open—judging from the characters’ predicament, do you think they survive? Is there another possible ending?
3. Why does Tess remember wanting to go off with the kid thief at the end of “Elephant Shoe”? What does that desire tell her about herself?
4. “Hunger Moon” and “Because the Fall is in Two Weeks” are told in the second person. How does that shape your experience of the story? Do you think it’s an effective use of point of view?
5. In what ways is “To The Ravine” a classic coming-of-age story? And in what ways does it differ?
6. Did you find your understanding of Heidi informed by “Kick” as you were reading “Train in the Distance”?
7. What was your attitude towards the aimless characters in “Destination Scavengers”?
8. Claudia, in “Bliss and a Boy I Once Loved”, is motivated to find ‘bliss’ in her life. Do you think she—however briefly— actually achieved it? Why or why not?
EXCERPT FROM HUNGER MOON:
You follow Foster through the side door. He chucks his jacket and gym bag onto a row of boots, taking down a pair of salt-stained lace-ups. You attempt First try fails, and your jacket skims into a gritty puddle. Second go ’round and Foster’s laughing saying, “Just throw it anywhere, man.” But you’re persistent, and finally, with some rearranging, it stays put over a trench coat and rain poncho.
You kick off your high-tops, only a couple months old and already too small. You won’t report this to your mother, not until your feet bleed or she’s better, back at work. Great. There’s your big toe. Jabbing right through the fresh hole in your sock. Goddamn. Somewhere between wearing shoes all day and removing them, it’s happened: your feet have taken on another centimetre.
You are like the fucking universe, expanding.
Or like that kid with a messed-up gene. The one you read about, his DNA gone haywire, pumping out signals to never stop growing. At sixteen, the guy’s legs are so long he had to remove the driver’s seat of his Volkswagen Golf to work the pedals from the back bench. And still he had to bend his neck funny to peer out the windshield. He’s probably eight feet by now or exploded right out of his skin. That could happen to you. Is happening. Every night you feel bone-splintering pain, as though tiny people are scaling beneath your shin bones with crampons and pickaxes.
Now your stomach groans. Foster’s mom peeks around the partition wall, says, “Derek!” She folds her arms, flicks the filter of an unlit cigarette with her thumbnail. She’s wearing a fuzzy teal sweater which gives her an out-of-focus look, espe-cially with her smudgy green eyeliner.
Foster runs past her, does a sock slide across the kitchen floor, right to the fridge. “You hungry, man?” he says.
You’re never not hungry.
When you step into the kitchen, Foster’s mom tugs your sleeve, says, “Jesus, Derek. You join the basketball team yet?”
“It’s not really my thing,” you say. Every other person begrudges the fact you don’t put your height to good use. They must picture you slam-dunking a million shots, and not how you trip down the court in gym class. Especially your dad who, when not in the Caribbean with his new girlfriend or closing another so-called deal in New York, hassles you to try out for volleyball or B-ball like he did. He’s always recounting his glory years, captain of this and that, telling you about team trips he went on, cheerleaders he dated.
Foster’s mom says, “What is your thing, Derek?” You shrug, mumble something about guitar, though you only play an A chord and a G. She places the unlit cigarette in her mouth and opens the oven. Lasagna smells waft out. “You staying?” she asks.
For the past two months, you’ve eaten mostly grilled cheese sandwiches, Doritos, cereal, and those bags of deli corned beef. Occasionally, your mom’s friend Evelyn drops off a casserole or a pot of chili, something your mom cries over, thanks her for and doesn’t touch. Supper you and your brother eat for two or three days in a row.
Your stomach groans again and you say yes to Foster’s mom.
"Traci Skuce's impressive debut collection, Hunger Moon, places her in the ranks of those short fiction writers whose work I embrace and celebrate. Sentence by sentence these thirteen stories introduce a voice as original and assured as the tales she tells. Poignant, beautifully crafted and deeply imagined, this is storytelling at its best."
"Re-imagine the lives of girls and women. Feel again our fear of a violent child who stalks us, of our mindless abandonment to bodily sensation which may or may not blight the rest of our lives. Remember also when our fierce loyalties were betrayed. Witness these lives depicted like a slo-mo train wreck which cannot sever our need to depend on someone, even if that someone turns out to be our own selves."
"All senses are fully engaged in Hunger Moon, an honest, unflinching and riveting collection. The characters within these well-crafted stories, whether children, twenty-somethings or young parents, are struggling, like most of us, to navigate the tricky, unreliable territories of familial and romantic love. Read these stories and be transported back to the age before internet, to tree planting camps and lakeside holidays, to relentless heat and longing in both near and distant corners of the world, as characters wrestle with transitions and loss and come to a deeper understanding of what it is to be human."
"Skuce has an obvious ease with language, and she writes with confidence.... reading these stories, it’s easy to see why they found favour with the editors of literary journals in Canada and the U.S." full review
"The artful writing and the complexity of the emotional landscape heighten the appeal and significance of each story." full review
"I could go on listing more of Skuce’s amazing storytelling techniques in Hunger Moon, but honestly, I think you should just read it for yourself. The collection has great stories and is a great read overall." full review
"Many of the stories are rather open-ended and leave the reader with the sense that the resolution and living out of these lives is not fated, but choices to be made in the future. But there is a forceful emptiness and uncertainty that brings the lives of these mostly separate characters and stories together.... I would gladly read [Hunger Moon] again, preferably in hard copy, and recommend [this collection] in terms of language, story, and character, and [its] engagements with larger questions of life and meaning." full review
"Traci Skuce digs deep into her character’s lives, examines friendships and childhood betrayals with brutal honesty. Her writing is sharp, observant and elegant. Hunger Moon is an enjoyable, provocative and often surprising collection of short fiction that deserves praise and admiration." full review