What You Need: Stories


Runner-up for the 2015 Danuta Gleed Literary Award

Trillium Book Award Finalist


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.


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


Andrew Forbes‘ debut collection begins like you’ve just asked the quiet guy in the corner to tell you a story, and he does, without fanfare or flourish, like it’s the most natural thing in the world. He just let’s the words unfold, and it’s somehow the most interesting thing you’ve heard all week. Forbes is a quiet, humble dude in the corner, and his thoughtful stories seem to flow effortlessly from him… These stories are well worth hearing.

The Book Stylist


What You Need is the rare pleasurable read that’s as relatable as it is ambitious. Each story is a fully formed world that examines human nature in a number of forms: love, jealousy, rage, sorrow. There is a sense of aspiration, of reaching beyond one’s means (often to fall short), that is an immediately relatable trait found in all of Forbes’s characters.

All Lit Up


These are stories to relish and savour.

— Trevor Corkum


This just in: Andrew Forbes Totally Gets It.

— Anna Leventhal, author of Sweet Affliction


Andrew Forbes’ “The Gamechanger” is a powerful work from a point-of-view — that of the scout, the talent evaluator — which is not often seen or done convincingly, as it is here. A story about fathers and sons, about fate, and about the implicit savageries that lurk at the heart of the sports we love and the teams we cheer for. This is wonderful, raw writing.

— Craig Davidson, author of Rust and Bone, and Cataract City


What You Need is available for order from Invisible Publishing, or follow the links below to find a copy from these retailers:

All Lit Up



McNally Robinson

Alternately, you might consider supporting your local independent bookseller.


4 thoughts on “What You Need: Stories

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