Usually the title of a short story collection is taken from the title of one of the stories it contains.
Not this one. None of the stories are called “Whirl Away”.
But they do all represent people whirling away in some form or another. They lose control, and can only follow the rule of centripetal force. The violent directions are inevitable and the forces difficult to overcome.
The most outstanding and unsettling story, “Echo”, is about a 5 year old boy, alone in the back yard, observing and evaluating minute details. “Suddenly, there were seeds from dandelions parachuting in on the wind under their silver-white canopies, regiments of soldiers, landing all around him, and Kevin was the only one left to protect the base, the only survivor.”
He only talks in “short, tight bursts of words.” The words of his father leave his lips like some bizarre remote mouthpiece. He is like a parrot that can say the sentences but doesn’t know the meaning. Slowly the story is unfolded, pulling back one flap after another, to reveal the tragic and powerful core.
Death, accidents, violence, ambulances figure prominently. The details rang true too, as if written by an insider, someone who’s been there. The author was a volunteer firefighter for a few years. His bio says that he finally left after being “shaken by the horror and loss he encountered”. These experiences have clearly informed his stories.
Wangersky’s writing is wonderful. His years as a newspaperman are evident in the spare, tight style that make these stories so fluid. Yet the writing is often leavened with poetic prose that perfectly captures and expresses a moment, a thought, an attitude.
This is the best kind of book — it is a feast of words and sentences to be savoured, and they combine to produce polished gems of stories.