What Can’t Be Undone

Author: dee Hobsbawn-Smith
ISBN: 9781927068892 Categories: Fiction, Family Life, Literary, Short Stories (single author)
Publication Date: 31 March, 2015
Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.5"

A crowded bar is the setting of the story “Munroe’s Mandolin” in which a sister attempts to track down her junkie musician brother while managing her job and her own tattered dreams.

In “The Pickup Man” a man takes his brother’s abused ex-wife and his nephew to the Drumheller rodeo where they encounter the ‘Wild Lilies’ – a group of middle-aged buckle bunnies – and one finds romance while the other considers the plight of a woman whose “joy is busted”.

“Appetites” follows a single mother and chef who has lost her sense of taste. When she and her son are befriended by the mysterious new waiter, she thinks things are beginning to look up, until she discovers her new friend’s dark secret.

“Nerve” takes place at a riding competition where a seasoned female ranch owner struggles with mentoring a clumsy, nervous teenager who is cracking under the pressure of her harsh and demanding father.

In “The Valley of the Shadow” a struggling artist seeks refuge from a bad breakup by taking a job at a ski resort in Fernie. She quickly befriends a motel employee whose dark past has caused him to age before his time.

“The Good Husband” begins with a retired man and his neighbour discussing marital fidelity. When his friend confesses to seeking comfort outside his marriage to an injured dancer who has given up on life, Alex watches from next door as his friends’ marriage deteriorates.

A farmer’s life is changed forever in “Prairie Selkie” when he discovers three young women with silver skin dancing on his farmland. Recognizing them as figures from the legends his Scottish granny told him as a child, he quickly seizes the green cloth belonging to one and claims her as his wife. Though resistant to his affection at first, eventually the couple start a family, but one day when the man forgets to lock the footlocker where he has hidden her outer garment, the selkie must make a choice.

“Other Mothers’ Sons” tells the story of a mother who deals with the death of her son by helping a lone hitchhiker find his way home.

In “The Bridge” a bartender from Calgary has given up on the concept of “home” until she travels to New York City to take in the wonder of the Brooklyn Bridge.

“Fallen Sparrow” follows a former nun who left the convent to become a food-cart vendor in Vancouver. With the assistance of the cocksure brother of the woman who taught her to cook at the convent she becomes quite successful, but after she takes in a homeless teenager, she begins questioning her benefactor’s intentions.

Fifteen-year-old Fanny develops a crush on the cowboy who hires her to care for his horses in “Exercise Girls”, but despite his having a wife and three children, his interest in the young girl seems to be more than professional.

In “Undercurrents” the proprietor of Miracle Beach Marina is a kind but lonely man whose main joy in life comes from making drifters feel welcome. When an impoverished family of four arrives in an old Volkswagen van, he befriends the teenage daughter and must force himself not to intervene in their tangled life.

“The Quinzie” tells the tragic story of teenaged siblings who decide to take advantage of the harsh Rocky Mountain winter by building a giant snow fort inside a hollowed out snowbank. The pair take to the task enthusiastically, going against the wishes of their fretting Irish mother whose paranoia stems from the death of her brother many years earlier.

A single mother returns to Saskatchewan to care for her aging grandmother after years in Vancouver searching for her long-missing mother in “Harvest”. When she runs into an old flame at a neighbouring community’s annual harvest festival, old emotions bubble to the surface.

In “Needful Things” a widowed seamstress has struggled to return to her busy life following the death of her husband. When she bonds with a newly immigrated Punjabi woman over food, films, and beautiful fabric, her zest for life reignites.

Violetta has always looked after her younger sister. She returned to Saskatchewan from a promising career as a baker in France to take care of her, went through surgery in order that she could have a kidney transplant, and now she manages the restaurant, market garden, and greenhouses they own together. In “Still Life With Birds” Vi’s world is shaken when her sister finds a new ally.

When a restaurateur goes to buy a gift for his wife in “Three-Way Mirror” he encounters an elegant woman buying a new dress and decides to invite her for coffee. Soon, however, his infatuation with the mysteriously bruised artist grows and forces him to confront buried childhood issues.

In “Going to Last Mountain” a mother deals with her feelings of loneliness after her son leaves for college and she must travel alone through northern British Columbia towards Last Mountain where she intends to scatter the ashes of her beloved dog.

About the Author

dee Hobsbawn-Smith grew up in a gypsy Air Force family. Her award-winning poetry, essays, fiction, and journalism have appeared in Canadian, American, and International literary journals, books, newspapers, magazines, and anthologies including The Malahat Review, Gastronomica, and Western Living. Her first book of poetry, Wildness Rushing In, was published by Hagios Press in 2014. She recently completed her M.F.A. in Writing at the University of Saskatchewan, and she is an alumna of the Sage Hill Writing Experience. What Can’t Be Undone is her first collection of short stories. Hobsbawn-Smith lives west of Saskatoon.


“dee Hobsbawn-Smith’s stories begin when love and comfort have faded, or the fatal accident has happened, the fire has burned the house, loved ones or brutal ones are already in their graves. What is left to write about? I’d say a whole lot. Hobsbawn-Smith’s characters are not life’s victims but life’s bludgeoned survivors. Like their earthy forebears, these modern descendants learn to live with regret, and they keep on keeping on. This kind of gutting it out is the very definition of Western grit, and these fine stories are parables of resiliency.” ?David Carpenter, author of Welcome to Canada

“With these carefully crafted stories, dee Hobsbawn-Smith reminds us of why we tell stories at all: to entertain, to reflect, and to render our lives and relationships in a way that is simultaneously simpler and more complex.” ? Johanna Skibsrud, winner of the ScotiaBank Giller Prize for The Sentimentalists
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