Four Letter Words A collection of award-winning short stories

Four Letter Words

The Back Cover

The award-winning stories in Four-letter Words feature people longing for something they’ve lost and can’t quite find.

Funny, sad, or funny-sad, the characters in this collection are all haunted by one four letter word of another: love, hate, lust, or loss.

A father is searching for a son who is missing in more ways than one, a young girl hangs out in hospitals to see and know there’s pain greater than hers, a young boy is digging a hole to China to escape his reality, two young girls pull off a scam that costs them everything, a woman learns lucid dreaming techniques to spend time with her dream boyfriend in her dreams, a mysterious neighbour lessens a boy’s loss before getting lost himself, a man clings to a buoy at sea and a life spiraling out of control, a hitman has a change of heart (and target), and young boy hides away from danger … where no one can possibly find hind, and more.

Check out this chat with Open Book Toronto.


Alistair MacLeod Short Fiction Award


Relit Award (Short Fiction)


ForewordINDIES Book of the Year Award

Accolades for each story

“A Second Look at Nothing”

    • Winner of the Telegraph-Journal‘s Salon Fiction Prize
    • Winner of The Newfoundland & Labrador Arts & Letters Award for Short Fiction.

“Burning the Night Black”

    • Published in The New Quarterly

“Before  I Was Me”

    • Commissioned by and published by Fierce Ink Press for their Fierce Shorts series on Suicide Prevention.


    • Published in The Antigonish Review
    • Winner of The Newfoundland & Labrador Arts & Letters Award for Short Fiction.

“Holes to China”

    • Winner of the 2009 Cuffer Prize for Short Fiction
    • Published in Prairie Fire
    • English Language finalist for LTAC’s Words on the Move  Competition

“Jenny on the Run”

“What the Difference Is”


    • Published in The Danforth Review

“Trigger Finger Blues”

    • Published as a single short by Found Press for their digital shorts series

“Where to Look”

    • Published in The Telegraph-Journal‘s Salon Summer Fiction Series
    • Published in The Rusty Toque

“Subtle Differences”

    • Third place winner in the 2008 Cuffer Prize for Short Fiction.

Select Reviews

Ranked #1

on All Lit Up's Top 10 Books of 2016

“Read Four-Letter Words to get the same Chad Pelley gut-wrenching human experience in tighter, smaller doses.” – All Lit Up

“Pelley is the kind of writer readers and critics adore, and earns praise from writers like Lisa Moore … he’s one of those rare authors who gives pretty much everyone who picks up his books exactly what they didn’t know they wanted. And that’s as good as it gets, really, because as we all know, you can’t please everyone.” – Atlantic Books Today

“Pelley writes Gem Dandy Short Stories”  The Compass

“Chad Pelley is one of my favourite writers. I love these stories so much. There’s such great characterization, and you really get the sense you’re getting every character’s deepest regrets and what ifs, regardless of the scenario.” – Open Book Toronto

49th Shelf’s “Most Anticipated Books of Spring 2016” list

“There was not one story in this collection that I didn’t enjoy. Some were stranger than others, some were sadder than others, some more meaningful, but all were captivating. And every one of them managed to suck me in from the very first sentence or paragraph.” – Consumed By Ink

“One of the best realized stories is “Meaning Well,” about Dean Markus, a reclusive lighthouse keeper, and an intense young Iranian man named Ishmael who has ambitious plans for turning Dean’s lighthouse into a money spinner.”  The Toronto Star

“He has an amazing ability to use words to evoke emotions and make the scenes of his stories super-descriptive. I thoroughly enjoyed this small volume of interesting and unique short stories.”  Library Thing