Walking Backwards by Charlie Hill
Characters in transition, others at uncertain stages in their lives, some comforted by old routines and others by newly adopted ones people this collection. The stories are brief – the shortest is just four paragraphs, the longest is five pages – intensely observed fragments of ordinary lives, and all give pause for thought. Standout stories are The School Run, its effect achieved more by what’s left unsaid than what’s actually said, and The Allotment, with its sting-in-the-tail ending. The title story is intriguing. The narrator once lived in a house “for people with no house to live in”, where a man who walked backwards also lived. He walked backwards because he believed moving forwards shortened our lives. The narrator no longer lives there but thinks about the backwards walker every time he sees people walking forwards, “moving step by step towards the end”. In Genocide, a nondescript man, given to unexciting daily routines, has the job of compiling lists of names. He doesn’t think about what happens to the people behind those names, as “it is nothing personal”.