This brings us to the final review from July’s issue of eFicition magazine.
This week, I take a look at Best Before by Katrina Johnston
The fourth story in this issue is one by a writer whose works are very easy to find around the internet. Katrina Johnston is from Victoria in my home and native land, and was the winner of the CBC Canada Writes True Winter Tales Challenge.
As a slice-of-life, inner monologue piece, Best Before quickly sets up a believable, everyday situation. Sardonic humour wipes away any eye-rolling that the phrase slice-of-life might induce – it’s a fun read, and it’s clear that the author is having fun with it.
The protagonist, working in a Subway-like sandwich place ‘tells it like it is’ in the foodservice industry. She details her various customers and the freshness policies of her duties as a “sandwich architect” (a not-very-subtle jab at Subway). I have no trouble believing that the author worked in such an environment at some point – or at least talked with many people who have.
Her infatuation with a Prince Charming (a regular customer named David) is funny and a little sad. She clearly has it bad for the guy, and the narrative paints a crisp picture of unhealthy infatuation. It becomes clear early on that a) this is one lonely girl and b) it’s extremely unlikely that she’s going to get this guy.
My first thought when I finished this piece was ‘That’s it?’ The ending fell a little flat – once I got there, I realized that the story really was all in this girl’s mind. Her anger, loneliness, and frustration are all clear, but what does she actually do? She never clearly acts on her infatuation, and holds in her reaction when he walks in with his girlfriend.
I didn’t feel the story had a strong enough twist – I wanted to see her say or do something to David or his girlfriend. Shout? Loudly profess her love? ‘Accidentally’ spill sandwich fixings over the girlfriend’s dress? Anything, really!
Slice-of-life is a story type that is hard to make interesting. Most attempts are trite, uninspired, or just plain boring. Best Before, however, avoids tedium through humorous, sardonic commentary. I can learn more about how to use humour in my stories, and how to give my narrators voices that can carry readers’ interest to the final word.