2022 - Shortlisted
In Pushing Back, Kinsella offers nuanced, resonant portraits of characters in place and sophisticated interrogations of small shifts in power. The 35 stories in this collection are constantly surprising and moving, and their cumulative effect is a portrait of striving and anxious humanity, somehow connecting despite the skew-whiff nature of the characters’ attempts.
Deeply empathetic people are composed of their struggles and imperfections: young children caught up in parental separations, emerging and inadequate artists floundering in new depths, old shearers struggling to express condolence and gratitude. Each story’s ambition is Tolstoyan in moral scope, simultaneously critical of and sympathetic to its characters’ motives, and in its precise attention to detail and scale. Landscapes, whether Dunlough Bay, a supermarket or a single pebble, are exquisitely rendered. The collection as a whole thrums with life, in prose that is deceptively plain with moments of breathtaking luminosity.