A Tale For The Time Being – Ruth Ozeki

tale for the time beingThis is a brilliant story. A woman in the BC Gulf Islands (Ruth) finds a diary washed ashore, written by a 15 year-old (Nao) in Japan in which her relationship with her 104 year-old great-grandmother is described. Story is a mystery with some magical elements, with Zen philosophy and some quantum mechanics to describe time and place (a little like 1Q84). A fascinating question is asked: How does reading a story impact the ending?

Wide Sargasso Sea – Jean Rhys

wide sargasso seaThis is the back-story to Rochester’s mad wife in Jane Eyre, a woman trapped in England after a life in the Caribbean. Rochester is revealed as first immature, then manipulative, greedy and deceitful so that his wife Antoinette is driven into madness. The author Rhys’ story is also fascinating.

The Girl Who Was Saturday Night – Heather O’Neill

Wonderful storytelling of the remarkable relationship between two siblings, Nouschka and Nicolas, who have grown up without parental love: a physically absent mother and an emotionally absent father. O’Neill captures the francophone world on Montreal in 1995, leading up to the separation vote. The sibling relationship is amazingly close but they are moving in different directions: Nouschka is going forward and Nicolas is stuck in the present/past. Wonderful writing, especially the metaphors!

Flora – Gail Godwin

A 10-year-old (Helen) and a 22-year-old (Flora, a cousin of Helen’s dead mother), spend part of the summer of 1945 together. Helen’s father is working at Oak Ridge on bomb development so Flora is a companion/chaperone. Helen is a precocious, petulant, self-absorbed and incredibly manipulative kid, so interesting character and the ending to the book is a surprise.

All My Puny Stories – Miriam Toews

all-my-puny-stories-miriam-toewsThis is a book about suicide and so it is hard to be perfectly objective but – this is her best book since A Complicated Kindness. Some back story: Toews wrote Swing Low, a non-fiction account of the suicidal death of her father. In AMPS (words taken from a Coleridge poem), the story is fiction but heavily influenced by the suicidal death of Toews’ sister in 2010.

Now for the comments: this is a heart-breaking story, that captures perfectly the inherent conflict between two sisters who love each other, but conflict because one  wants to die and the other who wants her sister to live. The inevitability of the progression to the suicide is frightening, despite great efforts by many individuals in addition to the sisters. And finally, the picture of the psych staff is unflattering: indifference and ineffectiveness. Save up your energy for this but it is brilliant writing.