Rat Medicine & Other Unlikely Curatives, Praise

“Put this book on your literary map and circle it in gold, for here lies buried treasure. Dig into its pages and discover a new voice, one that can be tender, tough and – in the best and most adventurous sense – dangerous. Read at your own risk, for in Lauren Davis’s stories, you may find yourself.”
—Timothy Findley, author of The WarsThe Piano Man’s Daughter and Pilgrim

“This is an excellent debut collection of 20 stories. Timothy Findley says it best when he invites readers to “dig into its pages and discover a new voice, one that can be tender, tough, and—in the best and most adventurous sense—dangerous.” A cautious start is recommended, though, as the first three stories might mislead you into believing that Lauren B. Davis is solely obsessed with violence. “Rat Medicine” vividly depicts a spousal assault;“Barbara’s Mother’s Rug” portrays one teen’s near-fatal alcoholic overdose (think vomit); and “Drop in Any Time” overtly details a violent assault. These preliminary images are explicit, and the emotional impact of each experience can be quite draining. One is relieved upon reading the fourth story, “Change of Season,” where the most violent act is a woman breaking her teacup. After this initial cluster of violent stories, the collection ranges widely in time, tempo, and temperament, and the characters are incredibly diverse (young, old, male and female, Aboriginal, drunk, insane, sultry). Take, for instance, Roddy; he’s a university-student-turned-street-vagrant who lives on a shelf in the subway tunnels (“The Poet’s Corner”). Then there’s Winnie; she’s a sexy, slinky, and calculating woman on the prowl who handles life and the hurts of love best when served with a side of alcohol(“Smoke and Ash”). And Brewster; he’s an intuitive deaf mute who communicates with dead benefactors to ultimately save the living (“The Golden Benefactors of Brewster McMahon”). Davis has the splendid ability to capture the details of her vivid imagination on paper. Each story in this fine collection is a tightly packaged treasure.”
Canadian Book Review Annual

“Nell’s husband, a failed farmer, is abject and dangerous. A week before he takes his fists to Nell she sees her first rat. The varmint has a smug look, staring her down. Later, she’s doing the dishes and a face appears in the kitchen window. “A rat face. . . . He reaches out and puts one little paw up against the glass. I put my finger up against the glass on my side . . . like somebody visiting a prisoner in jail.”

In this audacious and extraordinary debut collection, figurative rats abound. Like the real ones, they can be revolting or charming, vicious and greedy, or sweetly innocent-looking as they plot to ravage all that sustains you. Lauren B. Davis’s human rats come in varying colors and degrees of domestication, and are as touching as their victims. The range of human psyches portrayed here is striking and encompassing, and recalls a phrase of Timothy Findley’s, that real writers “don’t appropriate voices, they hear them.” Davis hears clearly and listens carefully, and fearlessly records what she knows about men, women, the very young and very old, the bloom and whither of love.

A teenage girl, the sensible wallflower at a house party seething with hormones and boozy bravado, saves a comatose girl’s life by forcing her to vomit, only to be mocked in a spew of cigarette smoke days later by the girl she saved: “You just don’t get it, do you.” A six-year-old is falsely accused of smashing a precious object by a mother who is lying to hide her own guilt: “Becky fell into a great rushing cyclone of sound . . . a terrible deep tearing. Her head shook and her arms and legs . . . as though she was being blown up, blown apart. She couldn’t stop shrieking at her dry-eyed, coffee-sipping mother.” A boxer falls in love and re-invents himself as a responsible cop and husband, until the job’s horrors and dire temptations trigger his disintegration, driving his wife from him and rendering him a dangerous alcoholic ruin. (Booze is Davis’s recurring scourge. If you’ve ever felt the need for a shot before noon, you’ll find stunningly sobering tales here.)

Born and raised in Montreal, Davis has published in several literary magazines and now makes her home in Paris. Rat Medicine is a rare pleasure, an amalgam of deep intuitive perception, sly wit and candor that could strip paint. Read it for its reminder that the wheel of pain and anger turns inside each of us. Keep it handy for its implicit and abiding prescription for the hurt: Healing comes from understanding.”
—Jim Bartley, The Globe and Mail

“An astonishing variety of voices – male, female, young, old – narrate these 20 diverse stories, through which alcohol flows like an unholy river of destruction and despair. Perceptive and compassionate, Lauren Davis gives us lives distorted by loneliness and fear, betrayal and anger, and draws us into situations where we have to look more closely at ourselves. An inventive new writer.”
—Isabel Huggan, author of The Elizabeth Stories and You Never Know

“…Davis produces a sharp, exploratory mix… The reader finishes the collection with a sense that while Davis’s craft is still maturing, she has a definite sense of symbolic occasions.”
Publishers Weekly