This review is of a book of short stories and poems called Estranged Behaviour: The Underbelly of Society written by Tanita Ross-Cady. This book was truly unexpected in such a refreshing way. The author writes with authenticity and honesty.
The book takes a closer look into the life of a bartender and a server. The author describes encounters inspired by her years of service with dark humor and a perceptive eye of the people around her. Her words will have you lost in reflection one moment and choking on your drink when you read an unexpected punch-line that has you bursting out in laughter the next.
The following is an excerpt from “The Mask” that I thoroughly enjoyed:
“Do not waste a moment wondering why people act the way that they do, just look for solutions. Always be confident and pleasant in the face of blatantly insecure ridicule. Making the conscious decision to be kind and concise never gives anyone an opportunity to control your emotions. When you own your emotions, you decide the outcome. Remind yourself: all of this acquired tolerance will teach you valuable lessons about life and the universe and all that bullshit.”
I love how she brings to light how challenging it can be to be in the service industry and how many different kinds of people you encounter and scenarios you find yourself in. Unfortunately, sometimes you meet people who will take out their frustrations on you and view you as a lesser person when you are in a service role. She addresses this problem quite frequently throughout the book, and it is something so many people can relate to.
Another thing I love as a whole about this book is that Ross-Cady is unafraid to address the obscene and the uncomfortable. Her job as a bartender has given her an opportunity to really experience people in all of their forms. This has created poems and short stories that really speak to the human experience: the good and the bad. Stories that describe insecurity, loss of control, doubt, fights, and anguish. It gets down to the core, shedding the layers and veneers to illuminate how different moments can look from an outside perspective.
The short story “Girls Night Out” describes an all-too common occurrence: two friends going out and searching for something to make them whole again. The night starts out innocent enough with the girls drinking and having a good time. They quickly gain the attention of the men at the bar, but then the reality starts to set in when an embarrassing scene breaks out that is caused by the women being overly intoxicated.
The story made me reflect on how so many of us have experienced this kind of situation before: we are looking for something we have lost, trying to maintain a status of our former glory days or looking for fulfillment at the bottom of a glass, when the truth is that was never where we should have been looking in the first place. Sometimes, a night out turns quickly into a reality check if it is being used for the wrong reasons and this story attests to that.
I could go on and on about analysis and reflection on the collection, but I will try and stick to the highlights. Le Cirque Maudit is a three-part story about dreams and going after what you want. The author describes her passion for aerial silks and the adrenaline and purpose she feels when she is in the air doing the thing she loves. She describes the myriad of emotions that can accompany that moment when dreams meet reality, and the crushing realizations she made during that time.
The story continues with an element of fantasy and symbolism as it discusses the sacrifices that are often made to pursue greatness and what it takes to get there. The story comes to a thrilling climax that discusses dreams realized and the confusion that often surrounds finding our identity and the inner conflict that goes along with that process.
I think what I liked most about this book is how much it surprised me. The author explored so many different topics and evoked an endless array of emotions. She had the power to take you from cynical humor to reflective symbolism. She gave you a greater appreciation for what people in the service industry often deal with while making you see that her experiences have themes and emotions that we so often feel ourselves as we go through our daily lives.
“Estranged Behaviour: The Underbelly of Society” is a one of a kind piece of literature. The author is honest and open about her experiences and the insight they have provided, and it was an adventure being a part of her thought process as I delved into each poem and story.