Kathy Page’s hypnotic short story collection The Two of Us reinforces its title from the first to the last of its unforgettable tales. Each story, unto itself and building successively, piece by piece, spirals in and out from the power of duos and duality. That power is dizzying, and intensifies and deepens with each relationship depicted … and discovered.
The force, the impermeability, the intricacy and the mystery of different types of bonds run the gamut in Page’s collection, from every type of familial configuration – siblings, parents/spouses, parent/child – to former, current and possibly future lovers, to teacher/mentor and student, to service provider and client, to colleagues, and even to human/animal connections. Each pairing offers something that strikes a chord – or something discordant, which still makes an impression, however uncomfortable – and many are piercingly moving.
Sometimes “the two of us” are lost, sometimes found, sometimes sadly not realized or discerned. Your heart breaks for the child who pursues what she thinks is the dog for which she has yearned and, woefully, has emulated with her adoptive family. Sometimes, the most striking and poignant reactions are for couples that seem at first glance to be the most ephemeral or perfunctory. A hairdresser called to substitute in for another stylist makes a startling connection with a client who has a wrenching special request.
Page’s words and observations range from the whimsical …
“On the way back to her house, Sonia posted the quiche into a letterbox.” (from “The House on Manor Close”)
… to the painful but vital:
“It’s such a soft but sudden feeling … the sensation of what used to be turning itself, in the space of a breath, into the beginning of something else.” (from “Open Water”)
Those words come from the final, extended story in the collection, in which one of the unique pairs is the main character, a swim coach and parental figure to a young woman who, although she has Olympic-calibre gifts, has decided to give up the sport. Somewhat buried in the story beneath this central and absorbing relationship is another pair: the two different identities, including different names, that the swim coach has assumed over the course of his life. While the story of the mentor and mentee is as richly affecting as all in this collection, Page reminds us tellingly that sometimes we cannot join in any kind of harmony with others until and if we can reconcile our own dualities.
The Two of Us, by Kathy Page (Biblioasis, 2016)