Significant Dust by Margo Lanagan
"So what's your plane, Vanessa?" says Dave. Everyone turns from the fire to look at her. The light from the floodlit yard cuts hard, peculiar shadows across their faces.
–Significant Dust (Cracklescape) - Margo Lanagan - c.2012
Vanessa works in a roadhouse in an isolated part of Australia. When we first meet her we don’t know why exactly she’s out there, she says she just wants to save some money and then maybe travel. That isn’t all the truth however. She left home to escape her past, or to find a future that wasn’t so overwhelmed by her past.
Intertwined with Vanessa’s past is the story of a UFO encounter. Or a series of UFO encounters. There is the man who come in one morning, covered in grime and dust, who doesn’t seem to know what year it is. There is the family who are convinced it is Friday when it is actually Tuesday, with their tale of following something in the night, only for it to turn and start after them. And there is the light that brightens up in Vanessa’s room from time to time, late at night, and almost pulling her along with it.
As I’ve said before about these stories, they’re great fodder for discussion. To prise out the meaning and references in them.
This one is so very sad. Even before we know what it is that Vanessa did we know how much she regrets it. The sense of guilt and responsibility are everywhere. And when we find out her small action actually was, how insignificant and innocent, and yet with such consequences, you’re heart would ache for poor Vanessa.
Once again the writing is just wonderful. If you haven’t read any Lanagan yet you really need to change that. If short stories are your thing try her Black Juice collection, its the first book by her that I read. Her more recent fantasy books are equally wonderful and unsettling (in a good way), and her earlier YA books are heartbreaking and awesome. Or at least the ones I’ve read are.