In the thirteen stories that comprise Way Up, Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer’s canvas stretches from downtown Toronto to isolated farms, from the Canadian Shield to Nova Scotia and Europe, and even into outer space. In “The Last Magic Forest,” she turns her Gothic imagination loose in the bush of Northern Ontario, where tree planters have developed a unique culture. In this wasteland of clear-cutting and scarifying, the concept of “nature” overturns everything readers (and tree planters) expect. When Kuitenbrouwer takes a Canadian tree planter to Belgium in “What Had Become of Us,” only the outer topography changes. In the superficially more cultivated European forest, the value and meaning of human life depends on the inner topography the forester brings with her from the Ontario bush. In other stories, Kuitenbrouwer’s characters engage in a continual play with perspective, in a perpetual balancing act.
In an emotional spectrum ranging from corrosive grief to murderous recklessness, Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer’s characters make — or fail to make — the constant adjustments necessary to stay fully human. By intention or accident, each character steps into a more comprehensible life or crosses into seductive darkness.