This Unlikely Soil

Stories, Caitlin Press, 2022

"Routley's gimlet eye suggests a deep wisdom about the power dynamics of women's dating...delightful, funny and acerbic...a blisteringly comic account..."
—Brett Josef Grubisic, The Vancouver Sun

“Reading [This Unlikely Soil] was a discovery. It felt like I was digging my metaphorical hands into the fecund soil of author Andrea Routley’s impressive literary imaginations. What the reader discovers in that soil is often unpleasant, sometimes hopeful, but always revealing.”

“Aside from being significant and important and true and compelling and all that, This Unlikely Soil is just super fun to read. It’s funny. It’s smart. Full of acute observation about how people are, how they view themselves, how they delude themselves. It digs deeply into place. The rural West Coast in this book is not just pretty backdrop, it’s under everything. It matters in the characters’ lives as they hike its trails, argue about dogs, deal with willow roots that break the septic tank, and debate politics on the lesbian listserv. This is a heckin’ great book."
—Anne Fleming, author of Gay Dwarves of America and Anomaly

“The characters in This Unlikely Soil are often caught in the particular agony of trying to make their inner selves legible to others. Reading these stories felt like being witnessed in some of my most interpersonally uncomfortable moments—that feeling of watching myself ‘behaving badly’ without being able to intervene. Wisely, Routley doesn’t attempt to offer clean resolutions to her characters’ emotional turbulence; instead, she generously and humourously lets them move through uncertainty, confusion, adapting as best they know how.”
—H Felix Chau Bradley, author of Personal Attention Roleplay

“Andrea Routley’s novella collection This Unlikely Soil delivers engrossing stories about contemporary queer women’s lives with rich detail, humor, verve, and compassion. Routley’s attention to her characters is dark and unflinching as she gazes at the messiness of modern life, then pure and honest as the characters find themselves struggling for authentic meaning. In these stories, Routley seamlessly integrates the technologies of daily life with individual drama and the spectacles of the natural world. Read this book for the insight it provides into who we are now.”
—Julie R. Enszer, editor of Sinister Wisdom and author of Avowed

“The compelling, delicately drawn characters in This Unlikely Soil and the evocation of the beauty of the everyday in these novellas by Andrea Routley will strike any reader of this book.”
—Naben Ruthnum, 2020 Malahat Review Novella Prize judge and author of A Hero of Our Time

“To borrow one of the images from This Unlikely Soil, Andrea Routley’s rewarding collection of novellas contain pearls of narrative self-knowledge formed from the jagged edges of intimacy and asymmetrical desire. Sensual and sensuous in her command of detail, Routley writes with confidence and power.”
—Kevin Chong, author of The Plague and The Double Life of Benson Yu

This Unlikely Soil, the sophomore collection from Lambda Literary Award finalist Andrea Routley, is a quintet of linked novellas exploring the failures of kindness and connection among a rural west-coast community of queer women. Funny, incisive and at turns heart-breaking, these stories assert a powerful new voice in contemporary Canadian fiction.
In “Appropriate Behaviour,” Freddie, suffering from a brain injury, seeks resolution with a neighbour after his dog bites her, but a lifetime of mixed messages yields disastrous results. “Damage” explores nuanced power dynamics within many relationships and asks what our responsibilities are in saying no. In “Guided Walk,” Miriam’s latest clumsy infatuation pushes her to change her life, to finally “come out” on a guided walk with her cousin. When her cousin beats her to it, Miriam descends into pettiness before finding her way out of the woods. In “Midden,” Naomi, recently split from Rita and apathetically venturing into online dating, sifts through the remains of past relationships after Rita accuses her of “emotional abuse.” The quintet concludes with “This Unlikely Soil,” a finalist for the 2020 Malahat Review Novella Prize, in which Elana, following the sudden death of her mother, attempts to manufacture a meaningful relationship with a former partner’s teenaged son.

 A bear with a hemorrhoid, a berried-up Dungeness crab, a perimeter of slugs… this dense coastal landscape does not simply mirror the characters’ lives but shapes them. While characters often embodypainful histories and cringe-worthy decision-making skills, the stories are full of humour and love.

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