‘Travelling is a constant process of trying to get away.’ And what travellers often discover in the end is that it is their very selves they are trying to escape. Felicity Castagna captures this concept beautifully in the characters moving through this collection (and yes, these stories are character-driven despite the impression the subtitle might give: the settings are a value-add, often feeling like characters in their own right). The fact that Castagna uses Asia, a place where people go to ‘find themselves’ as a backdrop is ironic, when the majority of her characters seem to be wandering aimlessly bumping against random objects and events, ‘hanging onto something else that we can’t put a name to, but don’t want to stop.'
These are not stories that have glib satisfying endings; most have an air of melancholy or dissatisfaction about them, a sense of reaching for something unknown. ‘So, where do you go from here?’ he asks. ‘Don’t know.’ Goes one typical exchange. But they are so very compelling! I devoured this book in no time at all. I did note Castagna’s fondness for the simile, most of which she handles well, in a few cases marvellously, but I must admit to tripping over a few, looking back with a ‘Que? How’s that supposed to work?’
A small criticism. This book may not inspire you to travel to any of these destinations, but that is far from the point. The poignancy and philosophy contained in these stories are more about encouraging you to travel within.