Carnival Glass, Bonnie Dunlop
Prairie Fire Review of Books, January 2009
Carnival Glass, by Swift Current writer Bonnie Dunlop, is a collection of 11 short stories,
varying in length from 9 to 38 pages. I tend to read novels more than short stories, but this
collection captured my interest in the first couple of pages. The characters, for the most part,
held my sympathy, and the straightforward writing, excellent use of similes and metaphors,
and intriguing titles kept my interest to the end.
Most of Dunlop's stories have a Canadian setting, but two are set in Mexico with characters
who are holidaying there. Most of the Canadian stories are based in Saskatchewan, particularly
the rural sections of the southwest, and one repeating theme seems to be the desire to escape
from the cold and bleakness of the region, even if only temporarily.
The first story, "Road to Tofino," is the tale of a woman named Rusty from Val Marie in
southwest Saskatchewan, who is taking a trip west and is now driving from Victoria to Tofino on
the west side of Vancouver Island. The title hooked me right off, for I've driven this road.
Flashbacks fill in the back-story, and a hint of mystery adds to the interest.
Another story with a theme of escape is "Joe's Cantina." Brenda, a single teacher with a
deformed hand, has saved three years for a Mexican vacation but finds everyone at the all-
inclusive resort already paired. She wants an adventure and takes a cab downtown to spend an
evening at Joe's Cantina. The adventure she has is not quite what she'd expected.
Another frequent theme is a general dissatisfaction with one's present-day life, a desire to
find something better, or learn to accept things as they are. In "Ordinary Lives," for example,
Joanie is a would-be writer who loves her husband and daughter but feels there should be more
to life. Writing secret letters to a convicted car thief in a Louisiana jail brings a sense of
excitement to her, but will this have the result she seeks?
Brenda, the protagonist of t