**spoiler alert** Having picked up far too many books at the library on my last visit, I thought I wasn’t going to have the opportunity to finish Merc**spoiler alert** Having picked up far too many books at the library on my last visit, I thought I wasn’t going to have the opportunity to finish Mercy Among the Children before its due date, but I made it a priority once hearing it was a Canada Reads 2009 selection. I will happily pay the late fees when entertained with such thought provoking and affecting storytelling as this.
Our narrator, Lyle Henderson, has the misfortune of being a descendent of a father and grand-father who have been outcasts in their small New Brunswick town for decades. Poverty, alcohol and condemnation have all been sources of ridicule and embarrassment that these men have had to endure. Lyle’s father, Sydney, a compassionate, stoic and righteous man, lives his life under the “turn the other cheek,” philosophy, and has faith in the fact that those who attempt to hurt him or his family, will eventually hurt themselves. This is a tough pill to swallow for Lyle, who sees his dad’s inability to protect or stand up for the family as pacifism, and ultimately neglect. His eventual recourse is to become a renegade, as he starts to detest all the propriety and weakness that his father seems governed by.
I would often find myself in a tizzy after reading the incessant small-town gossip and lies that run rampant throughout, and in disgust would throw the book down and pace my living room shouting obscenities at the ruthless and diabolical nature of the characters Richards has expertly presented us with. I would ferociously plead for Saint-Sydney to grow a spine and reject the false accusations made of him. As another one of his philosophies is never to beg the truth of anyone that wouldn’t understand it, for him justice was something that could only be obtained through patience, and waiting for others to self-destruct, not participating in injurious revenge. It was these instilled moral convictions versus a teenagers need be accepted and feel safe within the morally corrupt society around him, that ignited the internal battle between good and evil that Lyle found himself struggling with throughout this complex, tragic, and tightly woven tale.
Although you won’t find any perfectly ‘happy endings’ here, there are ponderous messages relating to spirituality, the essence of bravery, the possibility of redemption in spite of affliction, and the importance of truth, that leave me feeling challenged and inspired, no matter how lamentable the outcomes. I look forward to reading more of David Adams Richards’ work.
The budding of spring, a time for enlightenment and new beginnings, casts the mood for this beautiful and haunting tale told through magical realism,The budding of spring, a time for enlightenment and new beginnings, casts the mood for this beautiful and haunting tale told through magical realism, and reverent love for family, a place and a time. Michel Tremblay’s passion for his beginnings is shared with us through a day in the life of the residents of la rue Fabre in the heart of Montreal in the ‘40s, with the fat lady next door paying homage to his beloved mother.
The mystical sisters, Rose, Violette and Mauve, have sat in their rocking chairs knitting booties for generations of the past, and persevere for seven babies soon to be, the magical triple clicking of their needles a necessity for continuum. Helplessly driven by a predetermined pattern, they are merely observers to the struggles of their tormented neighbours, as they sit with instruments in their hands and compassion in their hearts.
The eccentric and opposing personalities Tremblay presents us with intermingle through the pages amidst their willful ignorance, blinding judgements, and suffocating shame. These transgressions, perpetuated by the shadow of a stifling religion, a begrudged war, combined with a lack of imagination, serve to disquiet them as they struggle to find their footing on the soft ground of the changing season.
The Fat Women Next Door is Pregnant although brimming with delicious prose, did prove to be a difficult read at times. The compilation of 22 distinctly different, three-dimensional characters – a supercilious cat, a matriarchal witch, the she-wolf of Ottawa – and a writing style with no regard to paragraphs or a properly referenced dialogue, left my head swirling on more than one occasion. Seemingly each and every character begged to have their depth explored and their connection with the reader furthered, and as such, I think the story would have been better served as an elaborate, 800-page epic.
Aside from this, I came away from the novel with the feeling that ‘family’ is the true essence of our being, as through all of the chaos and ridicule that can be found on these pages, the love that emits from this clan is a fortress of undeniable strength and authenticity. By the end of the story you’re sure to have a fondness in your heart for the fat woman next door.
**spoiler alert** NB: Ten minutes after writing this review I found out that Mercy Among the Children had been the first to get voted off the table. W**spoiler alert** NB: Ten minutes after writing this review I found out that Mercy Among the Children had been the first to get voted off the table. What an upset!
In the interest of broadening my literary range and exposing myself to more Canadian talent, I decided to read the selections from CBC’s Canada Reads 2009. After thoroughly enjoying Mercy Among the Children, I was anxious and excited to move on to the next book, to see if there was any chance that David Adams Richards could be defeated. Unless Canadians have collectively lost their marbles, there is certainly no danger of this happening with Fruit.
Life can be difficult at thirteen, and for Peter Paddington there is no exception. In fact things are worse for him as he is more than fifty pounds overweight, struggling with his sexuality, and – this is the real kicker – wakes up one morning to find that his nipples have transformed in to what look like maraschino cherries, that, to make matters worse, spontaneously start talking to him. That’s right, you didn’t read that wrong, talking nipples. The inclusion of this bizarre aspect to the story was the point of no return for my attention span, I’m afraid. Since the conversations his nipples would instigate were of an antagonizing nature, I can only assume that this was meant to signify his body’s betrayal of him, a feeling common to many people struggling with their weight. Clever, I suppose, but a little too bizarre in my opinion.
There were some redeeming qualities to the story though, as Peter was often extremely creative and witty. His habits of asserting himself through mental telepathy, worshiping the Virgin Mary through his closet door frame, and concocting homo-erotic bedtime stories to help lull him to sleep at night, had me giggling. On the flipside, Fruit is riddled with cliché, and most of the characters are the epitome of common stereotypes. There’s the Italian family… with the kitchen in their basement, who own a restaurant, with a daughter that works at said restaurant whilst tending to the household chores and minding the ripening tomatoes, and while she does all this, her Camaro driving brother is given free reign to do whatever he pleases, as he is the apple of his non-English speaking parent’s eyes. The clichés continued with fervor in the overbearing, menopausal mother with the Protestant inferiority complex, and all of the school cliques; goody-goodies, (head) bangers, athletic group, slutty girls group, et cetera, et cetera. It soon becomes apparent that this typecasting must be part of the author’s shtick, his way of exposing the conventions of everyday existence, I’m guessing.
Before reading Fruit I had heard from quite a few people that they had enjoyed it, so I suppose I could be missing something. From what I gather, it’s a story about becoming an active member in your own life, and that, to me, is an important message. However, Brian Francis’ lack of capture and the endless cliché left a lot to be desired.
Now it’s on to The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant by Michel Tremblay!