February by Lisa Moore
Trade Paperback, 310 pages
Trade Paperback, 310 pages
SynopsisAfter a storm takes down an oil rig off the coast of Newfoundland in 1982, all 84 men aboard are declared dead, including Helen's husband, leaving the young widow alone to raise their children. In 2008, a now 56-year-old Helen is struggling with loneliness and is still battling her distant oldest child, John, who has called from the other side of the world to tell his mother he has gotten a virtual stranger pregnant. In shifting times and viewpoints, the family tries to strike a balance between holding on to the past and accepting the change that will allow them to have a future.
Reason for ReadingI'm reading the Canada Reads nominees, and February is this week's choice in the Twitter Book Club.
Comedian Trent McClellan will be defending February, the pick for the Atlantic region.
Why you should read this bookWhile it is Helen's husband, Cal, who has succumbed to the ocean, Moore's prose covers the reader with Helen's smothering wave of grief, tossing and turning emotions without being maudlin. You can feel to your core how hard things have been for Helen and her longing to go back to the way things were, but you also sense a struggle to push back to the surface, a light that pervades the novel with a sense of hope. John provides an interesting contrast to his mother, choosing not to give himself fully to relationships so that he'll always have an escape route, which turns into thoughtless cruelty when Jane contacts him about their soon-to-be-born baby. Moore captures both the emotions and the activities of daily life that carry on after a loss, such as trying to pay the bills after Cal's income is gone. Helen deals with the problems of her teenagers with a sense of acceptance that mistakes were going to be made rather than self-pity that there couldn't have been two parents to deal with the children. A cool lyricism lets us see into the hearts of these flawed characters and hope for them to find peace and new things. A great, moody novel for anyone looking for an engrossing winter read.
Why you should avoid this bookFebruary is made up of snippets of the lives of Helen and her family, which may not appeal to people who like a linear story with a straightforward A-to-B purpose.
Opening ParagraphSunrise or Sunset, November 2008
Helen watches as the man touches the skate blade to the sharpener. There is a stainless steel cone to catch the spray of orange sparks that fly up. A deep grinding noise grows shrill and she thinks: Johnny is coming home.
They're calling my flight, John said now. I've got to go.
Now, listen, John, his mother said. Are you listening?
I'm listening, Mother, he said. He said Mother with a brittle irony.
What did you say to her? his mother asked.
The espresso was thick and textured, full of velvety grit. His mother would not be absolving him. He could feel her taking the side of a woman she did not know, taking Jane Downey's side over her own son's.
She was going to make him take responsibility.
This is what Helen has learned: it is possible to be so tired you cannot reach for the sky, you cannot breathe. You can't even talk. You can't pick up the phone. You can't do a dish or dance or cook or do up your own zipper. The children make such a racket. They slam around. They play music on bust or they lie on the couch watching soap operas. They fight and smash things and lose their virginity or they lose their way. They need money and they need to borrow the car. One shoe is always missing. You go through the bookbags, you go through the closet; always one shoe. Gone.