Tread Carefully: A Review of Laura Boudreau’s Suitable Precautions

reReviewed in this essay: Suitable Precautions, by Laura Boudreau. Biblioasis, 2011.

Laura Boudreau’s debut book release, Suitable Precautions, is a masterfully curated collection of short stories. Her style is unpredictable yet always elegantly delivered. She seems to delight in walking the line between the playful and sinister.

Suitable Precautions by Laura Boudreau, from Biblioasis

“The Party” flits deftly between sociability and faux pas, as with “the girl with wine-stained lips who asks, Red or white? and then looks at you disapprovingly if you reach into the ice-filled garbage can and fish around for a beer.” There is a hint of danger at play in that implied caution to tread carefully, yet there is exuberance here, too, which culminates in the image of guests spilling out into the street after the party has finished. With a quick, verging-on-wry wit, Boudreau peers into the nexus of social activity, and leaves readers questioning whether these interactions are woven around the absence of, rather than stemming from, connections between individuals.

In “Strange Pilgrims,” Ella buys a house and finds a fortune hidden in the attic. Her misgivings about the origins of this money, however, are eclipsed by an even greater mystery: persistent letters arriving from Rome and addressed to the former, now deceased, owner of the house. At first, Ella thinks that the money and the letters are related, but she quickly dismisses this notion as the value of making interpersonal connections is thrown into sharp relief alongside her newfound wealth. Wondering whether all instances of reaching out deserve—even demand—an answer, Ella convinces her partner to accompany her to Rome in order to return the letters personally. What she finds is that there are some exchanges so intense as to require a mediator and that, sometimes, the most devastating truths are best received from a distance.

Running through Suitable Precautions is the search for connection itself. Boudreau’s characters enter into this urgent and potentially treacherous undertaking from various perspectives. A family conducts a séance. A dinner party among friends could really be a gathering of enemies. A father and daughter go on a road trip to meet a man who communes with extraterrestrials. A woman reflects on her mother who, due to a childhood accident, is left unable to think abstractly and, perhaps, cannot comprehend love. Always present are the eponymous Suitable Precautions which, although admitting that the receiving end of the circuit is either fragile or nonexistent, do not discount the possibility of one day getting through.