In his debut collection of short fiction, Ontario-based writer Andrew Forbes examines the delicate yet intricate nature of humanity. He does this by looking at the impact decisions or circumstances can have on individuals and those around them. With this as an overarching theme, each story in What You Need links seamlessly with the others, despite the fact that they are all very different on the surface. The book’s thematic coherence allows readers to move from one story to another as though they were chapters in a novel.
Forbes’s characters are complex, yet don’t come across as over the top or unbelievable. They appear simply as normal folk dealing – with varying degrees of success – with what life throws at them. Samantha, the narrator of “I Was a Willow,” reflects on an event from her adolescence that helped shape her life. She projects a relatable sense of remorse in the recognition that a person can’t change the past, but that doesn’t prevent ruminating about what could have been. In the collection’s title story, Richie only recognizes his desire for a particular woman after it is too late to act on it.
What You Need is not without its faults. “The Gamechanger,” which focuses on a basketball scout trying to recruit a star athlete, is well written, but drags a bit, and includes events that don’t seem to add anything to the overall plot. On the whole, however, What You Need is a strong collection that leaves its reader wanting more.