Cool Water is a novel, but with a lyrical structure of intertwined short stories. Set in a small Saskatchewan town, it follows the lives of individual...moreCool Water is a novel, but with a lyrical structure of intertwined short stories. Set in a small Saskatchewan town, it follows the lives of individuals and families over the period of a few days. As in a small town where everyone knows everyone's business, these stories intersect. The reader is able to look down on the town and watch as the stories overlap and interconnect. We read of a mother struggling to cope with her children as the family farm is in the process of being repossessed; the bank manager who knows too much about too many people in the town; a young man, adopted by Norwegian immigrants, who has inherited their farm and is anxious about his ability to manage it; a woman passing through town who loses a horse, inadvertently causing a rift between the owner of a diner and her husband; and a man and the widow of his brother who share a home and run the town's drive-in.
While it is true to say that many of these tales are of loneliness, it's not a depressing book. Rather, we watch how people cope with being alone, with striving to make a life in a small town where possibilities of social intercourse are perhaps limited. The setting is rural, but the emotions of living with others but still feeling alone, or of living alone and dwelling in the past could really take place anywhere. Warren's characters are incredibly rich and well-drawn and I felt drawn into their lives. She has created a world that, as the reader, you fell you inhabit. The dryness of blowing sand, the heat off the sidewalk, the sweat under a saddle all jump off the page. An ideal summer read.
I started reading The Best Laid Plans after listening to a few chapters of Fallis' follow-up, The High Road, which is available free from iTunes. Whil...moreI started reading The Best Laid Plans after listening to a few chapters of Fallis' follow-up, The High Road, which is available free from iTunes. While you don't need to have read The Best Laid Plans first, it's the backstory and so I downloaded it onto my Kindle (it was my first Kindle purchase!) and read it in a couple of sittings.
It's a very funny book, and won the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour in 2008. Telling the story of a reluctant Liberal candidate in a very Tory riding east of Ottawa, it gives an insider's view of politics on the Hill and off, the backroom biting and glad-handing, all wrapped up in snow, scotch, and (a little bit of) sex.
The story is told by Daniel Addison, an English Professor at University of Ottawa and until recently, a speech-writer on the Hill. Addison needs to find a Liberal candidate to run in a very Tory riding and he manages to convince a Scottish Mechanical Engineering professor to throw his name in the race in exchange for a promise that the probability that he wins is nil, and for teaching his English for Engineers course. With no hope of winning, Angus McLintock agrees to the deal. What transpires is part slapstick and part very sharp satire.
I enjoyed this book immensely. As a Canadian, I particularly liked reading about our own electoral process/shenanigans, and would pick up anything by Fallis in a snap.
I picked up The Restoration of Emily by Kim Moritsugu from the Staff Picks shelf at the library. As soon as I got going on it, I realized that I'd lis...moreI picked up The Restoration of Emily by Kim Moritsugu from the Staff Picks shelf at the library. As soon as I got going on it, I realized that I'd listened to it via a CBC Between the Covers podcast a year or so ago, but it's such a good story that I gobbled it up in a day. Emily is an architect in Toronto and a single mother of a teenage son, Jesse. Her specialty is restoring older homes. She's happy in her single, solitary life as a 50-something cranky businesswoman when circumstances bring back parts of her past and (possibly) a new future. The voice in this novel is witty and real. Emily's thoughts, her conversation with her friend Sylvia, and her interactions with her son ring impossibly true. Perhaps it's because we're in the same peri-menopausal bitchy life stage, but many times I could feel Emily's words coming out of my mouth. I definitely recommend this as a good summer read! It's fast paced, funny yet poignant, and for bonus points, set in my city.(less)
One of the highlights of my summer reading so far, this book recounts the experiences of a young woman, Audrey, called back from the west coast (US) t...moreOne of the highlights of my summer reading so far, this book recounts the experiences of a young woman, Audrey, called back from the west coast (US) to Newfoundland when her father falls into a coma. She has to leave her tortoise, Winnifred, with friends and good chunks of the book revolve around her checking in with her friends about the tortoise, and her longing to be reunited with Winnifred. The remainder of the book involves Audrey's discoveries about her family in some very humorous ways.
This book is rather difficult to describe, but it is very funny, particularly for people who like words, and poignantly insightful about family life, all in the same breath. It kept me completely engaged with a quick moving plot and terrific wordplay. Random House has an excerpt that lets one get a feel for the writing.
Grant has a unique voice and won the 2010 amazon.ca/Books in Canada First Novel Award for 2010. Well-deserved.
I loved Russell Smith's columns on men's style in the Globe and Mail, and so was interested to check out his fiction. This novel follows Justin, a thi...moreI loved Russell Smith's columns on men's style in the Globe and Mail, and so was interested to check out his fiction. This novel follows Justin, a thirty-ish English instructor at a community college in Toronto who stops to assist a young woman in distress, waiting for an ambulance on the street. He ends up accompanying her to the hospital, they become friends, and quickly more. This woman has, lets call them, issues, and his infatuation with her leads him into involvement with the underbelly of the city.
The story is simple and the reader can easily see what's coming ahead. Smith writes well, but his protagonist is obsessed with sex, seeing women's undergarments through their clothing, the effect of air-conditioning on female anatomy, etc etc. This constant stream of lingerie sighting is tiresome and after the first couple of times, unnecessary. We don't need it every time the man sits in a cafe or wanders down the college hallway. I enjoyed the unfolding of the relationship, but Justin seems unable to see what is staring the rest of us in the face. Presumably, this is where the title comes from.
A quick, unsophisticated read. Not for the (sexually) faint of heart.
Borrow it from the library if you think it would appeal. Not a buy.(less)
This is the third novel by Tish Cohen that I have gobbled up: I loved Town House and The Inside Out Girl and so put The Truth About Delilah Blue on my...moreThis is the third novel by Tish Cohen that I have gobbled up: I loved Town House and The Inside Out Girl and so put The Truth About Delilah Blue on my library hold list as soon as I knew it was to be released.
Lila Mack has lived with her over-protective father since she was eight, believing that her mother no longer wanted to be in her life. Now at age twenty, she is trying to pursue art with no funding from her father. Deciding to work as a life model seems to be a great way to get some free art lessons, as she can listen in to the instructor while she poses. Her mother, who has been searching for her for years, reconnects with her and some pieces fall in to place for Lila. But it's not a straightforward happy reunion/ending, and Lila/Delilah finds herself having to take on the role of parent to her parents much sooner than she expected.
Cohen writes with great sympathy for each of the three main characters in this novel, drawing us into their lives as they try to make sense of shifting roles. She is able to write about this dysfunctional family with an eye to all sides of the story, to parents who both feel they need(ed) to protect their child from the other, and from the child/woman who has to redefine her relationships with parents who are not who she thought they were.
The Truth About Delilah Blue is a funny and poignant novel, but not depressing. The past is what it is, and Cohen writes honestly about the way forward for Lila who has difficult choices to make as she learns the truth about the present.