Some books feel perfect for the time and place. Angélique Lalonde‘s Glorious Frazzled Beings has been one of those books for me. In the middle of a hard few weeks, when I was overwhelmed and grieving and anxious and in pain, this collection of short stories was exactly what I needed. A quote on the back from the author Carleigh Baker says “With tremendous imagination, compassion, and fierce prose, these stories will walk you home.” And that is how I felt.
The stories in this collection teeter on the edges of magic. They toy with bleakness. They go deep into the thoughts and feelings of characters for whom they have great compassion. Angélique Lalonde writes about the more-than-human world in a way that delighted me, made me smile, and made me feel like it was pushing my horizons a little further out.
She also writes about the messy stuff—pain, addiction, trauma, homelessness, dispossession, anger. And these things are not separate from one another—there is magic and there is despair. If you think you can untangle them, well, think again. This is why the book felt so perfect.
Glorious Frazzled Beings tells stories of a boy born with fox ears, of a woman who makes teeny tiny clothes for teeny tiny ghosts, of disappearances and reappearances, of shapeshifters, mothers, and people who can see the things that most cannot. The stories are beautifully told and full of sensory crossovers—a woman learns to smell emotions, and the enigmatic “Lady with the Big Head” reads rocks and lichen with her tongue. In these stories the potential of the world feels like it is blossoming open.
Eloise left and then came back. She went to the place in the valley where white sand water meets water of aching blue. A place her mother had told her about going when she was a girl. Going there was a marker of cyclical time, a seasonal movement towards the world’s expression of itself.”“The Teeny Tiny Ghost People and Their Garments”
After I finished Glorious Frazzled Beings and reflected on it a bit, two things struck me as being particularly remarkable about these stories.
The first is that they felt entirely unique and alive, which is a hard thing to do in a world with so much writing in it. The second is that even though my lived experience is quite removed from many of the things that the stories are about (motherhood, addiction, dispossession), I found myself within them. Angélique Lalonde writes with specificity and it translates into something so much broader and deeper. I think that is also part of the magic of this book—to see yourself in others who at first glance seem so different from you.
In the end, I closed this book feeling like it had, as Carleigh Baker so eloquently said, walked me home. My grief and my pain had been reflected back at me. And, to my surprise, alongside of them were beauty and wonder.
Even when things aren’t okay and we still have to live with them, we still see the beauty and want to align ourselves toward love.”Angélique Lalonde, interview in The Malahat Review, 2019