Once You Break A Knuckle
★ Winner of the BBC Short Story Award 2011
Canada Hamish Hamilton (September 2011, Ed. Nick Garrison, 256 pages)
US Bloomsbury Publishing (Ed. Anton Mueller)
UK Bloomsbury Publishing (Ed. Helen Garnons-Williams)
Set in the remote Kootenay Valley in western Canada, Once You Break a Knuckle tells stories of good people doing bad things: two bullied adolescents sabotage a rope swing, resulting in another boy’s death; a heartbroken young man refuses to warn his best friend about an approaching car; sons challenge fathers and break taboos. Crackling with tension and propelled by jagged, cutting dialogue, the stories interconnect and reveal how our best intentions are doomed to fail or injure, how our loves can fall short or mislead us, how even friendship – especially friendship – can be something dangerously temporary.
Wilson’s world is always dangerous, barbed with violence and the possibility of betrayal. And yet, in this small, finely-wrought universe, a dogged, wry dignity is usually enough to see us through.
An intoxicating alloy of adrenaline and the kind of vulnerability we would all admit to if we were honest, Once You Break a Knuckle is about the courage it takes just to make it through the day.