Such a Lovely Afternoon


stories by Patti Flather

Print: 978-1-77133-884-4 – $22.95
Accessible ePUB: 978-1-77133-885-1 – $11.99
PDF: 978-1-77133-886-8 – $11.99

240 Pages
October 27, 2022

Such a Lovely Afternoon is a dazzling debut collection from award-winning Yukon writer Patti Flather.

A feisty young tomboy grapples with gender roles with sometimes hilarious results, a refugee single dad struggles for dignity in his northern community, and a malfunctioning compost toilet and wacky neighbours upturn a woman’s island cabin life, among other tales.

Against vivid landscapes from Canada’s West Coast to Hong Kong to the Yukon, Flather reveals poignant beauty, compassion and humour in everyday lives, with characters searching for identity and belonging, delving into their resilience and humanity.

“Fall into Such a Lovely Afternoon in the middle of the night. These take-no-prisoners, let-your-hair-down stories are a heart-to-heart with your BFF about love, loss, and the lives of women making themselves up in the late 20th century, choice by choice, at the edge of the world. Patti Flather’s stories are literary lightning.”
—Linda Svendsen, Guggenheim winner and author of Marine Life and Sussex Drive

“Patti Flather’s tender stories transported me in place and time and into the lives of characters who were rendered so powerfully that they, by turn, broke my heart and made me smile with laughter. Such A Lovely Afternoon is the fiction debut of a seasoned and accomplished storyteller.”
—Kevin Chong, author of The Double Life of Benson Yu

“In story after story, Patti Flather sweeps aside the veil that blurs our days, giving us glimpses of the raw reality lurking behind our everyday lives: a crude remark from a friend, a brief but vicious argument, landing a dead-end job—and then it’s back to the ordinary. Her vision is like a flash of muscle under torn skin, reminding us that one of these days, maybe tomorrow, the skin is not going to heal.”
—Wayne Grady, author of The Good Father

 “Flather writes with a fearless honesty that makes you wince with recognition and weep with relief that there’s someone who can put the complexity of living into words. These stories are soaked in the light and darkness of Canadian intergenerational experiences. Flather takes us north, west, and to the far east, right into the hearts of characters trying to get out from under their own lives, whether they’re travellers, adolescents, parents, or political refugees. Her captivating, lively, and heartrending stories are peopled with characters as troubling, provocative, and lovable as our own friends, families, and acquaintances can be. You’ll find yourself buying extra copies of this book because, as much as you want others to read it, you can’t bear to give your copy away.”
—Joanna Lilley, author of Endlings

Such a Lovely Afternoon

Patti Flather is an award-winning author. Her plays Paradise and Sixty Below have been shared on stages across Canada and published. Where the River Meets the Sea won the Canadian National Playwriting Competition, her radio play West Edmonton Mall was nominated for a Canadian Screenwriting Award, and her stories have appeared in literary magazines. A winner of the Borealis Prize for Yukon literary contribution, Patti has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of BC. She grew up in North Vancouver, BC, and lives in Kwanlin Dün First Nation and Ta’an Kwäch’än territory in Whitehorse, Yukon.

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3 reviews for Such a Lovely Afternoon

  1. Inanna Admin

    Such a Lovely Afternoon: Stories by Patti Flather
    reviewed by The Minerva Reader – April 24, 2023

    Such an extraordinarily lovely collection of short stories. The range of experiences, emotions, reactions, recollections, and turmoil in this collection blew me away. Devastating, insightful, heart-breaking and life-affirming, these stories will carry you to places you’ve never been, but once read, will stay in your heart forever. Kudos to this vivid and powerful writing.

  2. Inanna Admin

    #1812: Families in dysfunction
    Such a Lovely Afternoon by Patti Flather
    reviewed by Candace Fertile
    The BC Review (formerly The Ormsby Review) – May 25, 2023

    The nine stories of North Vancouver’s Patti Flather’s debut collection, Such a Lovely Afternoon, are so crammed with concrete details and believable problems that it’s impossible not to run the stories as short movies in your head. And these are stories that explore and illuminate the human condition of ordinary people who face common yet important issues.

    Flather’s gift for positioning her stories in history is demonstrated over and over, often by a simple detail. The temporal settings vary from the not-so-distant past to now and are immediately familiar to anyone alive at the time. For example, in “Stumbling Home,” a young reporter up north has to file her story by connecting her “laptop to the payphone.” In the first story, “Penis Envy,” references to Barbi Benton and Gilligan show a world in which magazines and television dominate popular culture.

    That opening story does a brilliant job of revealing the concerns of pre-teens, both boys and girls, in their hormonal chaos. The main character, Tracy, is a lively and thoughtful girl who learns that not all families are comfortable with nudity. She feels it is necessary to draw a penis to educate her friend Katherine who says, “How can I envy about something I never even saw?” In contrast, Tracy wonders why any girl would have penis envy, given the potential for spraying all over the place when peeing standing up.

    Tapping into a family’s world again in “Scotch Pine,” Flather describes the process of selecting a Christmas tree. It appear like a vote for which kind of tree is the mark of a small democracy, but underlying the family dynamic emphasizes an abusive and fiscally irresponsible man who erratically favours his oldest daughter, Lisa. He controls his wife, who resorts to alcohol—never an effective solution. While the father may love his family, he has no awareness about how to treat them:

    Mom is into the crying phase now, trying to say something. The muffling tells Lisa that her father’s hands are on her mother’s mouth again. Tammy stares at the ceiling. Sarah clutches her pony to her chest and watches her big sister like Lisa is the angel on the tree.

    When Lisa threatens to call the police, the noise abates. The physical violence does not.

    Family is at the heart of the stories, and its conflicts are endless. “Sarah Is Under the Table” opens with Leah trying to learn how to make bannock from her mother-in-law, Margaret, while baby Zach plays on the floor. Margaret’s husband has recently died, and it’s clear that with her dementia Margaret cannot live alone. But it’s also clear that residing with her son and his family isn’t working either, especially as the dementia becomes more pronounced. Perhaps complicating the issue is the cultural difference. White people (Leah) are seen as warehousing their problem relatives unlike First Nations people (Margaret). But it’s hardly as simple as that. Flather is sensitive to the struggles of her characters:

    With a guilty twinge, Leah imagines having to force her own mother, a feisty hotel manager, into an antiseptic cage. Leah wishes she could afford a ticket south to see her this fall. Even phoning is so expensive.

    Being frustrated does not make someone a bad person.

    In the title story Terri and her two sisters are together in Vancouver for the trial of the man who murdered their mother. Terri thinks of the past—how the sisters used to be happy and how life intervened. Her parents divorced, the daughters scattered, the father remarried, and things changed. But life goes on.

    My favourite story, and perhaps the most depressing is “Sinkhole,” because it encapsulates much of what’s wrong today. Edgar is a care-giver for challenged young men. The job is hard, understaffed, and poorly paid. But the workers are absolutely needed. Edgar is a kind man who struggles to raise two boys. He is divorced, and his ex-wife is working out of town, so the burden falls on him. He is so busy caring for others that he is exhausted. Add in that he suffers from PTSD from a childhood incident that causes flashbacks. And he’s an immigrant whose education and experience are not recognized in Canada. He is doing the best he can against huge forces. It’s just so so sad.

    Flather’s stories delve into the struggles of individuals, within a family or longing for a happy one. Her sense of place, including BC, the Yukon, and southeast Asia is convincing, and overall her ability to indicate the humanity in all kinds of characters makes for a gratifying reading experience.

  3. Inanna Admin

    Such a Lovely Afternoon by Patti Flather
    reviewed by Hiedi Cuppage
    The Northern Review – June 1, 2023

    After the last few years, having mainly read articles about health care, and autobiographies and memoirs written by comedians, I found Patti Flather’s stories a welcome change. I enjoyed how powerful, independent, and confident Flather was able to make her main characters, even while they were at their most vulnerable.

    In “Typhoon,” Flather depicts a relatable story, from longing to be a young person making a life in another country, to actually pulling off that life and making it feel realistic, through to the continuous yearning for being “home” while also trying to embrace new realities in a new land. It’s as if she has filled in the gaps missing on HGTV’s House Hunters International, capturing some of the things that don’t change just because your landscape has: a long commute, trying to fit in, finding a purpose or a job that gives meaning to your days, questioning if you’ve overburdened your partner by having them buy into the adventure. This was the first story in Such a Lovely Afternoon where I found myself hooked on Flather’s words.

    “Piss and Vinegar” paints a picture of anyone who has ever rented anywhere with that one terrible landlord who makes promises straight out of the gate and seldom follows up, hoping that your desperation of keeping a home, any home, will trump you caring about renter’s rights, and that you’ll give up on the hope of any follow through and just keep sending the monthly rent accordingly. This is matched with another strong character, Wendy, who continuously finds ways to make a life for herself, even though it’s not the one she had envisioned. The intergenerational friendship that Wendy forges with her neighbour, Inez, and the trouble they get up to in the name of vindication against Wendy’s landlord, made me laugh out loud more than once. Even at times of desperation, there are glimmers of hope—whether it’s finding a plumber or a warm meal, you never have to worry about Wendy and there’s something to that.

    “Stumbling Home” gave me great pause. This felt like the most northern focused story of all, though I am not sure if that’s because of my own life experience. Having moved from the East Coast to northern British Columbia to work at a newspaper, and years later working for the courts and clerking a coroner’s inquest myself, this story almost felt like Flather has captured parts of my own life at earlier stages. In only sixteen pages, she captures the heaviness of small-town life in the most impossible and heartbreaking of times, and touches on navigating and building relationships through it all. Not an easy feat even if she had written a hundred pages to try and do so, yet she delivers.

    “Sarah Is Under the Table,” is about the beautifully heartbreaking reality of anyone who has ever loved and lived with someone with dementia, and the complicated layers that can come when the person you’re taking care of is your family through marriage, but you don’t know them very well as people. Leah finds herself living with her mother-in-law, Margaret, and there’s a lot of overlap between caring for a toddler and someone with dementia that gets touched on throughout. Flather incorporates Indigenous culture and language preservation at times, when you can imagine the lights of Margaret’s eyes sparkling as they’ve never fully lost the ability to make bannock or remember Gwich’in words when trying to explain a recipe or a place. I like to think some of the times I’ve learned the most about people I admire is when they’ve been making something they’ve made a thousand times; when they’re paying mind to cracking an egg rather than to you directly, and they open up about some of the more painful parts of going through life. This story allows for those moments to unfold and a meaningful, respectful relationship to form, even when Margaret is not fully herself anymore.

    “Such a Lovely Afternoon” is heartbreaking and touches on mental health issues, the loss of a parent, and the burden and difficulty of having to go on through it all—and the surprise shoulders we lean on and connections we can rebuild during those times.

    While I initially felt there were more characters than pages within the first few stories, all in all Flather does a heartwarming job of creating characters we care about and can relate to along the way, with sprinkles of laughter even at the most jarring times.

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