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Natural Order

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  640 Ratings  ·  112 Reviews
“It’s beautiful,” I said, even though it wasn’t my style. It was cut glass and silver. Something a movie star might wear. Is this what my boy thought of me? I wondered as he fastened it around my neck. He called me Elizabeth Taylor and I laughed and laughed. I wore that necklace throughout the rest of the day. In spite of its garishness, I was surprised by how I felt: glam ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published August 23rd 2011 by Doubleday Canada (first published August 2011)
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JoAnne I loved it to the point I actually slowed down my reading pace to make it last longer; I didn't want it to end. There aren't too many books I can say…moreI loved it to the point I actually slowed down my reading pace to make it last longer; I didn't want it to end. There aren't too many books I can say that about.(less)

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Gavin Stephenson-Jackman
Oct 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
This is an excellent read. Natural Order by Brian Francis by Canadian author Brian Francis chronicles a mother's acceptance of her late, gay, son through a series of flash backs through their lives brought back to her when a volunteer, Timothy, starts to visit her in her nursing home.

The writing style draws you into the story and the time frames easily. There are some bits of humour that really hit home for me as they perfectly describe people in my own life. I fully understand Joyce's reluctance to acknowledge her son's h
Nov 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011-reads
Joyce Sparks lives at Chestnut Park Nursing home. She is finding it more and more to difficult to get around each day and she knows this will be the last place she lives. When Timothy, the new male volunteer, shows up in her room trying to engage her in social activities, or at the very least, in a conversation she puts up her usual “grumpy old lady” barrier. She can’t maintain it though because, darn it all, he bears such a striking resemblance to her first love, Freddy Pender.

Everyone in the s
Mar 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Joyce Sparks is grieving and regretful. She is the homophobic mother of a gay man who died of Aids. This whole book brought me to tears so many times and I couldn't put it down. The writing is fantastic and absolutely "spot on".

A heartbreaking book .. and I loved it. It made me think about all the parents who were just coming to terms with their children's homosexuality, maybe not handling it well, then suddenly losing them to AIDS. So much sadness and regret. And yet the novel had a strong hear
Oct 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
A great read, though I did not particularly like the main character, Joyce Sparks. Her voice left me cringing on more than one occasion, she had too many issues that left me feeling very unsympathetic, and in fact, she angered me. I suppose that sort of visceral reaction should in fact warrant another star for this book; however, there were a few things that were left unanswered for me and I put this book down feeling as though it wasn't really "finished". The writing is wonderful, and quite pow ...more
Aug 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Exceptional. My heart broke over and over and over again. Without bashing us over the head this book asks us to think about our own prejudices that come to light in the smallest of our actions. Character depictions are exquisite, especially Charlie, the father,about whom we know little for the most part (because of the narrator perspective), but who turns out, in the end, to be the best person in the book.
Neil Mudde
Feb 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely fantastic story, even though the old age factor got to me at times, no doubt due to the fact I just turned 72, and have worked in a long term care home for over 20 years, and today I volunteer in one.
The story is about the Mothers, specifically the Mother of John, the length she went through to make believe things were not as they really were, John was a gay man,her husband Charlie who truly loved his son, was lied to by her constantly, especially in the end when John is dying of aids
Adam Dunn
Dec 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: glbt
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I can't recall the last time a book made me sob. This one did, in a very cathartic way. The main character is deeply flawed and yet redeemed in the end. The story is a common one, for many in the LGBT community. It's about life not turning out how you expected, and love, and loss.
Jan 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Brian Francis' novel is a careful and compassionate examination of what happens when love and intolerance are combined. Regret, fear, frustration, self-deception, pain... It is almost too difficult to understand the struggles of this mother (in the 1950s to the 1980s) whose son is gay. I say almost because there is still a lot of bigotry and fear against/ toward gay and lesbian people (not to mention queer or transgender) today. I think it has been said that it is still one of the biggest insult ...more
Farzana Doctor
Jul 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Natural Order is a beautiful novel about an experience we rarely read in novels--the story of a grieving, regretful and homophobic mother of a gay man. Francis writes Joyce with amazing clarity, taking us with her as she ages and grapples with her life and her mistakes. The book is layered with her memories and the way they bump into the story of a first love and his disappearance. I read this book over the weekend, neglecting all else until I could finish it.
Nov 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Oh my goodness, I loved this book so much. It just reached me so deeply. Right to the very end, I didn't like the main character, Joyce. She was too intransigent, too rigid, too demanding, just too much of everything negative. My opinion never changed, but the story was so rich, the tragedy so compelling, that I couldn't stop reading. If there were six stars to give, I would.
Liz Leroux
This book is a treasure, sad at times but able to touch the reader with deep emotion. I really enjoyed the insightful character development and the descriptive writing style. Highly recommend it.
Mar 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: general-fiction, lgbt
I was assigned this book to read in a public health class on aging at the university I attend. However, after the first chapter I was hooked and had to finish it until the end. It brought up many raw emotions in me, having lost my mother a couple of years ago. As a gay man, I am fortunate to have had parents who wholeheartedly supported and embraced me as I came to terms with my identity. It broke my heart over and over and over again reading this book, to see how harmful Joyce was to her son by ...more
Jun 15, 2011 rated it it was ok
Summary: Natural Order begins with Joyce in a nursing home. She's elderly and reflecting back on her life, and in particular the life of her only son who died in his 30s. The book is a collection of memories which stand out to her, and how they impacted her as she grew up.

This book makes you think, and it definitely makes you feel. It's about relationships and how we view other people, as well as how we treat them. It's about how we learn to deal with life and its difficulties.

The story was he
Jenny Gayfer
Apr 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Natural Order was a solid read. It pulled on all my emotions and captured my attention. It very much brought to mind the two years that my Mom was in extended care. It was bang on in the portrayal of daily life. The book gave me a vast picture of a persons entire life and reminded me that we are not impervious to age - it is coming to us all, and it is here already for some of those I love. It's a reminder that the person on the inside does not change, even though on the outside life ages them. ...more
Jun 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
A librarian personally (and very enthusiastically) recommended this book to me, as she had just finished reading it herself. After reading the book, I can see why she over-rode the holds to give it to me!

Natural Order centres on the life of Joyce Sparks, a woman who had come of age in small-town Ontario during the 1950s and is living out the end in a retirement home. The book explores her complex relationships with the loves in her life: her high school crush and her son, respectively-- as well
Vikki VanSickle
This was a lovely, stirring read about an old woman reflecting on her life, particularly her relationship with her son, who was gay and died young of AIDS, two things she is still coming to terms with. Brian Francis does an excellent job getting into the head of Joyce, who is a complex character who struggles between what she feels is right and the mores of the time (1950s-60s). He creates a sympathetic portrayal of how a woman of this era may possibly struggle with her son's sexual identity.

I a
Shonna Froebel
Nov 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canadian
This is a touching novel that explores a woman's feelings around motherhood, acceptance and regret. Joyce is in her eighties and living in a seniors' care facility. The appearance of a young man as a volunteer causes her to dig into her memories and think about the past. She thinks about the young man she had a crush on as a teenager and the sad end to his life she was told. She thinks about her own son, who died years ago, and her relationship with him. She thinks of the various times in their ...more
Feb 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I just simply loved this book! It explored the relationship between a mother and her son; the pain that both parties felt as it became clear that the son was homosexual and how each of them dealt with this reality. The mother tries so hard to shield her son and husband from the truth yet in doing this harms the husband/son relationship. The son, in turn, feels that he cannot come out of the closet to his parents and in turn, robs himself of his relationship with his parents. So, in essence, ever ...more
Aug 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Natural Order is not a game-changer, but it is a subtle portrait of a woman who could not help herself but try to do what she thought was right even when the outcome was hurtful. Joyce is not a selfish person in most respects, but her selfish refusal to see what her son actually is leads to family dysfunction and eventual unhappiness. Francis may stumble occasionally with some plot contrivances, but his overall sense of the character is riveting, and his refusal to go maudlin is to be congratula ...more
Jan 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book, couldn't put this one down. Very heartbreaking, though surprisingly there were also some very funny moments in here. Only complaint was the story keeps shifting timelines, and there's nothing to clearly delineate a shift in time. You are just reading along and the story is suddenly 30 years in the past, or 50 years in the future. But that is a minor quibble in an otherwise amazing story.

Jacquelyn Cyr
Nov 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book. It gets everything right. I could not believe this was written by a young-looking man - it so beautifully captures the voice of an elderly woman who lost her son. This was a beautiful, sad read with enough humour to avoid it becoming too heavy despite its heartbreaking storyline. I will most definitely be seeking out Francis's other work.
Gayle Mccormick
May 20, 2016 rated it liked it
really liked it, probably a 3 1/2 star.

Three life long Canadian friends, my mother's age, looking back on their lives.

"I'm a woman of the United Church of Canada. I can make a slamon loaf standing on my head in thrity seconds".

Oct 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
"When you don't talk about things, you're left forever making up conversations in your head."

"How much of our lives are lived too late?"
For this review and others, visit the EditorialEyes Blog.
4 out 5

Let’s get this out of the way at the beginning of the review: Natural Order by Brian Francis is really sad. Its sadness is worth sinking into, however; it’s a nuanced and multilayered exploration of loss, of aging, of the sins we commit against those we love the most, and of human failings in all their multifarious abundance.

Told from the perspective of octogenarian Joyce Sparks, the story unfolds almost exclusively in the sma
Susan Finck
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a different kind of book for me. From the outset, I found myself feeling uncomfortable. Not because of the subject of homosexuality, rather because the narrator was an older woman looking back over her past. The mistakes she'd made. The pain she'd caused in the lives of others. Had I read this book 10 years ago I would not have had the feeling that I was looking in a mirror, glancing at my future.

"I've been thinking that you can only ever deal with something with whatever means you hav
Monica Penthor
Sep 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2018
Story centres around Joyce Sparks who is mother to a gay son. She is a very controlling woman trying to fit her life into her pre-conceived notions. As a result her relationship with her son suffers as well as her relationship with her husband. To make matters worse she controls the relationship between her husband and her son as well, all the while being very self-rightous. As Joyce looks back on her life when she is living in a nursing home, she discovers that perhaps she did not do right by t ...more
Oct 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to JoAnne by: Sheila Aspinwall
"He once broke his wrist doing a cartwheel." Page 43 ( personal memory )
"You don't miss the things you never had." Page 52
"How people can be so different, even in families." Page 78 ESP in families
"Where had this fat come from?...Is this what happens to women after thirty?" Page 142...or 40, or 50
"Just a schnauzer." "I'd like to meet him." "He'll likely pee on the floor." "Then he'll fit right in." Page 196
"I don't think there's a lot of money to be made in cookies." "Tell that to Mr. Christie."
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful book! I have not read Brian Francis before, and was blown away by his writing skill. He is definitely in the same league as Margaret Laurence, David Sedaris and Alice Munroe. Wow!
He is able to capture the emotions of people with such poignancy and humour. I cried and laughed as I read this book, which I consider the sign of a wonderful author. He understands the complexity of life and ageing so well.
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Toronto: Great Toronto Based Authors 4 46 Oct 12, 2014 11:14PM  
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Brian Francis’ second novel, Natural Order, was published in hardcover by Doubleday Canada in 2011. The paperback was released in August, 2012.

Natural Order made Best Books of 2011 lists for the Toronto Star, Kobo Books and The Georgia Straight. The novel was short-listed for the Ontario Library Association's 2012 Evergreen Award and 2012 CBC Bookie Awards.

Natural Order tells the story of Joyce Sp
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“I can't believe she's lived this long. God must be avoiding her.” 13 likes
“On the drive up here, I saw a goose," he says. "A Canada goose. Fred told me they shit something horrible. They migrate between the north and the south, don't they? Like seniors.” 2 likes
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