|4 out of 5 stars|
I hesitate to think about how many decades it has been since I read anything by Margaret Atwood—perhaps since the early 1990s? Reading this book of short stories reminded me of how much I appreciate her outlook on the world (and this from someone who isn’t really a big fan of short stories).
I particularly enjoyed the first three stories, which were inter-related and which provided a look into the poetry scene of the 1960s, something that Atwood knew from the inside. There seemed to be a lot of looking back at the past in all of the stories in the volume—not exactly in a nostalgic way, but in a clear-eyed sort of way.
I was particularly fond of the story which provided the title to the volume, having a bit of a soft spot for stromatolites. One summer I volunteered as an educator at a local paleontology museum. The paid staff, of course, grabbed the positions with the sexier dinosaur fossils, leaving the volunteers such treasures as a stuffed Gar fish, a petrified ray of some kind, and the trusty stromatolite. I researched all three and made them as interesting as I could (partially, I must admit, to avoid the puzzles & games that were also on offer and which bored me to death). I felt I had done my job when my supervisor would stop by to pick up educational tips on my subjects.
I have also been on educational cruises like the one Atwood describes in this story (and which she was on when she began to spin this tale) and have thoroughly enjoyed myself—although I never plotted murder. She also seems to enjoy the murder mystery narrative that entertains me.
I must remedy my lack of Atwood in my reading life—how talented she is to be able to write novels, short stories and poetry and do it all well.