What You Need

Invisible Publishing / April 15, 2015

  • Trillium Book Award Finalist
  • Runner-up for the 2015 Danuta Gleed Literary Award

Loyalties collide with long-buried love, a man builds a nuclear bomb in his garage, and helicopters ferry away the injured. What You Need is a collection of vital, honest stories told in a personal and urgent style. Forbes’s characters struggle to challenge their all too ordinary lives, falling victim to fate, to one another, and to self-sabotage. These are stories about failure and yearning, and they remind us of the humour and humanity in even the worst decisions.

Praise for What You Need:

“In this quietly implosive collection, Forbes pulls us immediately into the emotional turbulence of his protagonists while navigating twisted paths to acutely real conclusions. A middle-aged Canadian finds romance in a seedy Florida motel, a laid-off electrician builds an atomic bomb in his garage, a love-struck teenager accidentally blows himself up, a car salesman searches for the smallest particle of domestic bliss, a football phenom seeks war on the defensive line. Forbes’s varied cast of damaged characters, in diverse settings, shares a universal search for affection, purpose, and hard-won, home-grown joy.”

— Trillium Award jury comment

“Andrew Forbes’ stories in What You Need are plainly spoken, his characters ending up in bar fights, playing high school sports and building thermonuclear devices in their garages. He has a gift for balancing good old-fashioned narratives with surprising implosions of fate. Voice and details are his strong point. Whether they’re digging up a dead friend or puzzling over their daughter’s ability to walk through walls, his characters are easy to relate to, they are true to themselves and they engage the reader, who can’t wait to turn the page. What You Need is insightful and intelligent, sharp and deep as bone.”

— Danuta Gleed Literary Award jury statement

“This collection’s title might seem to boast, but it arrives by way of a question posed in its first story: You got what you need? Our next question, then: What is it? That question permeates these stories, in some cases explicitly, though more often implied … What You Need is compelling reading.”

— Jade Colbert, The Globe and Mail

“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…

“What You Need is a strong collection that leaves its reader wanting more.”

— Katie Ingram, Quill & Quire

“Andrew Forbes’ stories are beacons scanning human experience for its loneliest, most secret corners, and illuminating them with hope. At turns funny, inventive, thoughtful and sad, What You Need is an unassuming, surprisingly moving first book of short fiction, striking for the poise and authority of its language and the depth of its insights.”

— Pasha Malla, author of The Withdrawal Method and People Park

“In Andrew Forbes’ collection of 17 stories, What You Need, old-fashioned values are sometimes gut-punched by modern life. With echoes of Raymond Carver, Richard Ford, and the grace of Flannery O’Connor, Forbes is the real deal short story writer. Forbes’ deft story telling and distinctive, intimate voice takes the reader into the hearts and souls of his introspective characters’ little triumphs and tragedies. Tough, tender, visceral lyricism is always balanced with an ironic warmth, humour, and just enough hope.”

— Richard Taylor, author of House Inside the Waves

“What You Need is an excellent book, and arguably the debut of the year insofar as short fiction is concerned. Every character is fully realized and three-dimensional; every story sparkles with granular detail and the kind of profound emotional insight that only comes with having lived the difficult passage between the expectations of youth and the ambiguities of adulthood. The book is full of wit, and, despite its subject matter, laugh-out-loud funny in places.”

— Mark Dickinson, The Fiddlehead

“Forbes’s greatest success is in taking the high tragedy out of traditionally masculine narratives. His best stories elicit a sense of loss—not for unfulfilled archetypes, but for people who could have contributed to society in a more meaningful and responsible way if they had relinquished outmoded definitions of manhood, such as the athlete, the suburban dad, the protector, and the honourable suicide.”

— Jeremy Hanson-Finger, The Puritan