Posted on | August 20, 2010 | 9 Comments
Melancholic – that’s the first word that came to my mind when I finished this book. I’m guessing that’s how Helen, the protagonist, felt for a major part of her adult life. Her husband, Cal, had been on the Ocean Ranger that sunk in 1982, off the coast of Newfoundland – there were no survivors.
Fast-forward to 2008, which is when this book starts: Helen, now a middle-aged woman, is battling loneliness and misery, as she tries to find some kind of solace in looking after the grandchildren and sewing beautiful wedding and prom dresses as a career. She’s tried her hand at online dating, after being persuaded by the children; she’s tried yoga; working in a corporation and all in all, it just sounds like she’s tried a myriad of things to get over the grief – but to no avail. Does one ever actually get over losing a loved one?
The narration isn’t linear though – it’s almost like a series of random flashbacks and memories that have made up some of the happiest, saddest and most poignant moments of Helen’s life : be it receiving a Valentine’s card from her husband, days after the Ocean Ranger sank or, contemplating his last moments – did he at least get to play a last game of cards post-supper?
There is no plot – at least not one that I could find. It was essentially focusing on Helen’s despondence, as well as the lives of her children and grandchildren: her daughter getting pregnant at the age of fifteen, her daughter coming home drunk and escorted by the police. It’s also a very “twenty-first century” novel, with references to Cosmo and Vogue, eBay and online dating. I’m still not quite accustomed to seeing them in books – even though, for once, it didn’t sound like those references were forced. It was just part of the narrative, and it made the book more real somehow.
Did I enjoy this book – not really. It depressed me, and made me ponder on things that I ordinarily wouldn’t (e.g. do you ever get over the loss of a loved one, specially a husband?). It was just so – sad, for lack of better words! Well-written, descriptive, emotional, but sad! One of my favourite poems is Dylan Thomas’ Death Shall Have No Dominion, but clearly, those left behind beg to differ, as this book reminds us, not very subtly! Who knows how life can change by things we have no control over, when we least expect it to?!
Have you read anything by Lisa Moore? I’ve heard Alligator is worth a read – would you recommend it?
As for this book being on the Booker longlist – well, I personally don’t think it’ll make the shortlist, but hey! What do I know?! What do you think – does the shortlist have a place for February?