James Trettwer’s inter-linked collection of stories, Thorn-Field, dissects small-town life and probes into complications of those who live there. The fictional town of Liverwood’s main employer is the potash mine that seems to arc over the town and everything people do. With a novel-like persistence to detail, Trettwer’s stories observe how the towns people thread their way through the thorn-fields of their relationships which are complicated by their addictions and obsessions and by the numbing constancy of their lives. In the background the mine looms large, its four-rotor boring machines rumble deep under the earth, while six kilometers away, Livewood town life embraces their rhythm. In assembling Trettwer’s links between stories, we witness elimination of the romanticism often associated with small town simplicity, and see the exposure of the unhappiness, corruption and the exploitation that drive the town’s human affairs. The stories disclose the fears of those whom the mine has orphaned like Lourdes whose life forward was always fraught with uncertainty that had to be met with bravado; the stories describe all the hard-drinking and the uncertain young men like Dillon, Darryl and Blake, or the young women driven by lust that leads to unwanted pregnancies. In Thorn-Fields small town life is anything but idyllic but rather becomes a collage of human foibles and peoples’ dangerous vulnerabilities.
Scattered throughout the stories are the addicts, enablers, those obsessed with better lives and those who are resigned to small town life under the big smokestacks. Thorn-Field is a collection of linked short stories that examines how small town despair can cripple the spirit but also how community faith and trust can heal it. These are stories of what it means to remain locked into a life where narrow thinking and idle talk can destroy the will to find something better than a place where rumours fly and there’s no place to hide.