Once You Break a Knuckle
Short Stories by D.W. Wilson
2011 / 256 Pages
The short stories that comprise Once You Break a Knuckle take place in an isolated, rural area of western Canada – The Kootenay Valley. In this collection, we meet characters faced with the challenging task of living out their daily lives. Mechanics, cops, farmers, construction workers, and bored adolescents attempt lives of normalcy and complacency yet are continually thwarted by bad decisions. Affairs, addiction, and violent tendencies lead to heartache and regrets, but throughout these stories, the most devastating consequences come not from actions and events, but from silence.
Once You Break a Knuckle does indeed portray very physical (and often gruesome) scenes that feature death, wounds, broken digits, and collapsed lungs, but the stark physical imagery only further emphasizes the emotional void experienced by the majority of the characters. Husbands and wives allow old wounds to fester, fathers and sons must interpret sideways glances and silent nods as indications of approval, and children grow up to inherit traits of miscommunication and emotional masochism.
Yes, it is bleak and grim, but these themes are not limited to rural, lower-middle class culture. D.W. Wilsons’s characters represent traits that are devastatingly integral to Western society. The notions of independence and pride are necessary for survival and perseverance, but left unbalanced, they can be just as isolating as the raw, echoing landscape of the Kootenay Valley.