First Fox by Leanne Radojkovich
It was my birthday recently, and one of the presents I was excited to receive from a good friend of mine was First Fox from independent publisher The Emma Press. My friend knows me well, and I could see from the blurb that this short story collection would be right up my street: a series of short stories depicting real life with the atmosphere of fairy tales. It did not take me long to read through this short collection and I very much enjoyed spending the weekend after my birthday doing so.
First Fox is a collection of eleven very short stories, ranging from one to eight pages long. With underlying themes of loss and family, the stories have a similarity in tone despite their vastly different characters. Indeed, it is the characters that are the biggest engagement for the reader, with each protagonist being full of depth, pain, and potential. Although only a few of the characters are named, Radojkovich is able to cleraly portray each and every character as a fully-realised person within the worlds she has created.
As with any good short story, Radojkovich has taken great care in constructing each sentence and paragraph, saying no more than what is necessary to the narrative. Allowing the reader into just a snippet of the lives of these characters serves to add to the almost mythical tone to the stories, with the opportunity for the reader to elaborate in their own imagination what else is happening. I particularly appreciated that the conclusions to some of the stories were left somewhat ambiguous, with the protagonist having come to a realisation but not necessarily seeing in detail what that realisation means for their future life.
The strongest of the stories, in my opinion, is the first in the collection: ‘The Back of Beyond’. Focussing on an estranged father and daughter, it clearly portrays in just a few short pages the anger of the daughter and the grief of the father, despite the father not making an appearance until the last few lines. Yet for all that this is a narrative covering a series of sad events, it has a quietly hopeful ending that perfectly finishes the story. It was definitely my favourite.
Ultimately, this was a short, light, and enjoyable read, despite dealing with some difficult topics. As a reader, I was very engaged with Radojkovich’s characters, and as a writer, I was inspired to continue writing short stories. This is a short story collection I would recommend to others, particularly those with an interest in short fiction, and I look forward to seeing more from Radojkovich (and The Emma Press) in the future.