My turn to pick the BPYC book this month, and I chose February by Lisa Moore. In part, because it actually is February, but also because I've been wanting to read this since it was longlisted for the Man Booker and won the Canada Reads competition last year.
1982. A Valentine's night storm sunk the oil rig Ocean Ranger off the coast of Newfoundland, taking the lives of all the 84 men on board. That's the night Helen lost her husband and was left with four children to raise on her own. Grief-stricken, she moves numbly through decades.
She listens for his voice or a sign or advice. But there is nothing. She lives through the disaster every night of her life. She has read the Royal Commission report. She knows what happened. But she wants to be in Cal's skin when the rig is sinking. She wants to be there with him.Moore's gift with language is powerful. It's not just in the chosen words, but their rhythm, their ache, and their empathy.
The moments and metaphors:
On their wedding night he broke a full length mirror... he must have touched it, knocked it in some way, but it seemed to spread with cracks all by itself... It broke by itself because Cal had glanced at it and all the bad luck to come was already in place. Everything was in that glance and it smashed the mirror.This Globe and Mail review begins by asking if Lisa Moore is a buddhist, because the mindfulness in each moment is so strong. There is also the compassion she brings to the suffering.
I had this Reader's Guide on hand but our group touched on most of the topics in the course of the evening's discussion.
Moore's talent to reproduce the way thoughts meander is brilliant. The story feels impressionistic, with important details omitted while others are juxtaposed against crystal clear descriptions.
Not everyone 'liked' this novel. It is definitely not a conventional story. A few people admitted they felt Helen's character stalled and the story lost momentum in the telling. Helen's pain and loss are constant, her healing only begins when her own son, John, accepts responsibility for the child he fathered. This new life strikes a chord in her that opens her to new beginnings, including a romantic partnership. At the story's end, approaching 60, she is no longer sewing other people's wedding gowns, but enjoying her own wedding on a beach, with family joined in celebration.
Every February deserves a happy ending... and a new beginning.