The Best Thing for You, by Annabel Lyon
McClelland & Stewart, 336 pp, $24.99, softcover.
Annabel Lyon has done it again. Following her highly acclaimed story collection, Oxygen, the Vancouver author brings us a delightful work of three novellas. The Best Thing for You is truly the best thing to read these days. Lyon's stories are literary beauties: well crafted with persistent, sparse imagery. Her characters draw you in with their eccentric quirks and complexities, leaving you hungry for the next twisted and tantalizing tale she might weave.
In the trilogy's highlight, "No Fun", a physician mother and depressed father struggle to determine whether or not their son beat up a Down syndrome boy. They vacillate between belief, born of their love for him and the desire to know he would not dream of doing anything so heinous, and disbelief based on the evidence. Lyon never actually supplies the answer but rather dwells in the mystery of it all, leaving the reader to imagine both possibilities, determine morally right from horribly wrong: Aesop's fables meet the Scooby-Doo ending. She describes the dread and agony this decision inflicts, the weightiness of its implications on the parents and the neurotic thinking that results: "The rain rains, the movie moves, and the hours roll away like weights that kept our lives from blowing away. The trial starts tomorrow."
In "The Best Thing for You", a murderous, adulterous, ostensibly sociopathic wife carries out an unimaginably horrific crime. With the help of her juvenile and hopelessly naive lover, she leaves her husband tied up to die in their basement. She does it feeling no remorse or regret, all the while plotting her alibi. "'I am approaching,' she assures herself, 'I am trying to say his name but my mouth would be dry, my mouth is dry, and no sound is coming.'" She has a cold and unfeeling essence that is enough to keep us reading just to find out more about why she is capable of this cruelty.