Country of Cold

In the splendid title story, “Country of Cold,” Daphne hangs out at Winnipeg’s Velvet Olive sports bar where wrestlers like Rick the Stick and Barking Mad Maurice Millard retire for refreshments after a grueling afternoon practicing their grunting and scowling. Daphne has not always been an aimless wrestling groupie. Before Winnipeg, she had been a family doctor “up north,” as she puts it, but a bungled endotracheal intubation contributed to the death of a young patient. The Disciplinary Committee cleared her of “frank malpractice,” but it concluded that “some remedial training in airway management may be contemplated, if she is to continue to provide emergency care of the critically ill.” Daphne’s conviction that she is a loser leaves her sunk in spiritual sloth.

In “Hudson Bay, in Winter,” the annual Dog Day in Wager Bay is open season on the feral dogs that maul children every year, sometimes killing and eating them. Dog owners tie up their animals that day and any caught running loose are shot and burned with gasoline.

“Boatbuilding” is a virtual manual on how to build a sailboat. Carol flees her husband, preoccupied with his computer, and her sixteen-year-old daughter, destroying herself with adolescent angst, and leaves Etobicoke for Churchill, where she rents a cabin and a workshop and concentrates on the details involved in such practical matters as casting a lead ballast keel and mastering the dangerous adze. When Carol launches her lovingly-crafted vessel into the Churchill River she achieves one of the few triumphs recounted in these bleak but moving stories.