Review: Rebecca Lee’s Bobcat & Other Stories

When was the last time you read a short story — not for class, but for fun?

If you can’t think of an answer, or if that answer happens to be “never”, you’re missing out on the wealth of talented Canadian short story writers.

One author who immediately comes to mind is, of course, Alice Munro, the most recent recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, and who sparked a newly revived interest in the short story. Though she is still fairly unknown outside of Canada, Rebecca Lee is another award-winning writer who has been steadily gaining recognition for her work within this genre.

In fact, I was frequently reminded of Munro’s prose while reading Rebecca Lee’s Bobcat and Other Stories. Just a few pages into the collection, it becomes apparent that Lee is an experienced writer.

Like Munro, Lee writes with a sense of unflinching honesty, crafting complex, believable characters. She explores common themes of friendships and romantic relationships, but weaves enough depth into her stories to allow readers to explore these themes beyond their initial surface level.

Though I enjoy reading about characters of all different backgrounds, I liked how I could relate to many of the characters within Bobcat due to our similar ages and experiences. I was surprised to discover that a university student narrated many of the stories or that they took place in a university setting.

Many of Lee’s characters start off as ordinary, yet take surprising actions that lead to some unusual situations. This was often the feeling I had while reading Bobcat: I’d think a story would be heading in one direction, and then it would veer somewhere else.

It made for a read that was at once relatable and intriguing, and I found myself wanting more as I turned the last page. This feeling was amplified by how many of the stories ended rather abruptly before a true conclusion could be reached, lending a sense of ambiguity to many of the endings.

The title of the book is taken from the first story, “Bobcat”, which starts out as an innocuous dinner party, but quickly becomes more complex as more characters are introduced and relationships are tested. Other stories include “Banks of Vistula”, which (often humorously) recounts a student’s struggle of whether to confess to plagiarism, and “World Party”, in which a university faculty member must decide a professor’s fate after he is found to be romantically involved with his female students.

Along with its content, the format of the book will likely appeal to fellow university students as well. At just over 200 pages long, this is a fairly short read that requires only a short time commitment. And since it’s broken up into seven stories, each with their own individual characters and storylines, readers don’t have to remember details from one story to the next — perfect for the busy student who may not have time to read every single day, which can make it difficult to keep track of crucial plot details.

That being said, students and adults alike can enjoy the poignancy and intelligence of Bobcat and Other Stories. It’s worth checking out, whether you’re already a fan of short stories or new to the genre.

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