The stories in A Tendency to Be Gone are stylistically diverse and always powerful, whether they be told in short declarative sentences or long winding passages that stretch across the page. Ryder mesmerises with her prose, which is consistently of high quality, always narrated in first person, but playing with cadence and rhythm, making each story, each narrator, distinct and self-contained.
The collection reminds me of Faulkner and O’Conner, while sounding, really, like neither of them, but they are the names that struck me as I read. There’s the same sense of religiosity within the stories, often dealing with people of a christian denomination, whether it be in modern times or hundreds of years ago. And even the stories without a sense of religion, there is still this sensation of a powerful other, a force beyond human scope.
Settings are strong here and fully imagined, alive. Sometimes overwhelmingly so, even for the characters, as they are lost within their setting, locked there. Ritual is important as is the search for signs, for signification, for warnings and omens, for reasons, for everything, for anything. These are characters in search of what they cannot name or cannot understand in unfathomable settings that are so powerful they can only be examined through their minutiae. The shape of a rock or the edge of a leaf or the sound of a river a mile away take on new life, hold a magnetism, a force unrecognised until one was willing to look and see.
This is a powerful collection with language that surprises and characters that fascinate.