The Pier Falls and Other Stories by Mark Haddon [in Library Journal]
Wildly varying in topics from a seaside disaster in the titular opening story to an unlikely relationship that develops between an older man and the suicide attemptee he rescues in “The Weir,” Mark Haddon’s nine stories here are thematically linked through a common sense of aloneness that haunts his characters.
The sole survivor of a royal massacre in ancient Greece is deserted on “The Island” and struggles to stay alive. A woman joins a mission to Mars in “The Woodpecker and the Wolf,” seemingly to escape the burden of earthbound relationships. A daughter returns to her childhood home in “Breathe” and is harshly confronted by her estranged mother and resentful sister.
By revealing the dark disconnects, Haddon (best known for the international sensation, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time) exposes the vulnerability of isolated individuals, masterfully eliciting ready empathy from listeners. Clare Corbett and Daniel Weyman take turns narrating; Corbett is unequivocally the stronger, with a wider, more versatile emotive range.
Verdict: Haddon groupies will surely be driven by curiosity to pick up Falls and be gratified with unexpected rewards. Literary short story aficionados will want to explore and appreciate, as well.