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When we stop, reflect and consider human life generally, it resembles a complex tapestry of emotions, experiences, senses and events that take us to the next phase or stage of our lives. The year 2020 has proven to be extraordinary and life changing. Adaptation has been the theme of the year.

The Taste for Silence is a collection of short stories that is an apt read for our contemporary era. As diminutive as this collection appears on paper, it is not a fast read. Amanda O’Callaghan’s debut collection is a meandering journey through lives that are adverse and harrowing. The micro fictional stories explore complexity within a short interval. A reader’s emotions will undulate as they read through each story and Callaghan’s prose unravels imagery, emotions and sensations.

There is that sense of loss and disappointment when a woman’s secret world is unveiled, and her past paralyses her ability to live within the present. The reader will shiver in unison with a widow who discovers her new companion’s dark secret. A man’s life in the shadows, as a suspect in his wife’s disappearance has a surprising origin. 

If there is one story that stands out in this collection for me, it is The Memory Bones. Within it we sense and smell Australia’s rural landscape and its accompaniments. There is drought, stagnation, racism and mortality. It is a harrowing slow burn of a story that delivers a sucker punch.

We have all either directly experienced or vicariously experienced the events that unfold within The Taste for Silence and if we haven’t, life has a way of opening such doors and delivering similar experiences, much like objects washed ashore, which make us pause to think or seek that taste for silence to gather our thoughts, place things into perspective or simply to catch our breath.