Dina Del Bucchia
Arsenal Pulp Press, 2017
254 Pages
ISBN 978-1-55152-701-7

Reviewed by Rachel Jackson

Don’t Tell Me What to Do by Dina Del Bucchia is a hilarious debut story collection both ridiculous and mundane. As the title implies, the author showcases women who are sick and tired of being told what to do and proving that “it’s so easy to get in trouble if you demand every ounce of a person.”

The stories in the book are told primarily in first- or third-person point of view and Del Bucchia’s voice is straightforward and informal, adopting chronological organization. In one story an older woman dreams of a concrete oasis.

In the titular story a young woman steals thousands of dollars in toonies and flees from the man she stole from. In X, the woman hasn’t “had a job since [she] got fired from the printing place for photocopying [her] boobs” (83) and likes to attend funerals for the free food. Other female leads include a woman trying to get laid after her divorce and an excessive gifter who goes too far.

The only story featuring a male point of view, Danilo, is “Hamsters,” in which the next door neighbours’ granddaughter has a rebellious streak. One story artfully reads like notes on a research project. “Instructions for Having an Affair,” shares reflections from a woman who cheated and who declares that “coffee culture is decidedly unsexy,” and thus an unattractive meeting ground for those seeking extramarital relations. While these are interesting departures, stylistically they don’t quite fit.

The latter half of the book regains steam with “Nest” about Sara, a designer of custom pet homes who gets caught up in a project (and client) with repercussions for her marriage. Another story is about a woman whose husband’s sleep talking is very loud and sexually charged. “Full Price,” follows a young widow on her first day back at work following her husband’s death. Don’t Tell Me What to Do ends with “The Gospel of Kittany” about a former fashion model who uses social media and the “transformative power of memes” (263) to run her sex cult.

Del Bucchia has three previous collections of poetry and been published in many of Canada’s leading literary magazines. She is an editor at Poetry is Dead and co-hosts Can’t Lit podcast with Daniel Zomparelli.

Don’t Tell Me What to Do is recommended reading for those who hate authority, those who love to laugh, and adults of all ages looking for something clever and raunchy and frank.

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