In this golden age of the short story, with so many strong writers thriving within the form, it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd, but Gurnaik Johal has managed to achieve just that with his debut book, We Move. The opening story, Arrival, brilliantly sets the tone: spare, moving, and wise, it’s little wonder that it recently won Galley Beggar Press’ prestigious annual Short Story Prize.
The stories that follow it are impressive not only for their assurance (Johal is 24 years old) but also for their range, covering the experiences of multiple generations of the South Asian community in Southall, West London. Highlights include Be More Roy, an affecting story about parted companions, and the eponymous closer, which packs an emotional but understated punch.
Like almost all short story collections, We Move is not perfect. One of the strengths of the writing, its concision, can occasionally be a weakness, with a few of the stories being too slight to leave a lasting impact; Johal also has a habit of writing weak openings, the stories seeming to grow in confidence as they progress and gain clarity. Yet overall, this is an exciting collection from a shining new voice.
We Move, Gurnaik Johal (Serpent’s Tail)
Price: £12.99. Info: here
words JOSHUA REES
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