So, did y'all know that Canada is full of a bunch of nerds? I guess I always sort of thought so but I definitely now know so after hearing about Canada Reads last week. Canada Reads is a Survivor-style TV show where a group of books are chosen as Canada's best for the year and are then pit against each other with notable Canadians serving as each book's proponent. Each episode, there's a debate and a book gets voted off until there's a winner - like, basically, Canada's best book for the year. People live for this shit. They listen to it on the radio and they comment in forums and they watch the broadcasts. They even read the books that are in contention! They CARE about these BOOKS. It is considered ENTERTAINMENT to DISCUSS BOOKS.
If you can imagine with me for a moment. Anderson Cooper, Tina Fey, Ben Stiller, Omar Epps, Michael Moore and Arianna Huffington sitting around a table getting heated about BOOKS. Like, books that aren't made into movies or even have their rights optioned. Straight normal ass books with covers and pages and words on the pages. And there they are, those famous people, debating the merits of theme and character development and marginalized peoples. They're doing this on TV. And people are watching it.
HAVE I LOST YOU????????? Maybe I'm selling us short, America, but I just cannot see it. Here's what we debate about books: Is or Is Not Harry Potter a gateway to the occult? and Did Ben Affleck REALLY deserve to be in Gone Girl? Is Christian Grey a good boyfriend? Don't talk to me about Oprah's Book Club either because it's not the same.
Well, anyway. it's all beyond me. The point of that story, though, is that I read a past Canada Reads winner this week: February by Lisa Moore. It's the story of a young woman's struggle to raise four kids and be a human after her beloved husband dies in the 1982 Ocean Ranger disaster when the oil rig sunk in a storm and all aboard die.
The book itself was.....it was good. I liked it. There were some lovely, poignant, beautiful passages that stopped me dead - insightful stuff that's totally human and real and doesn't require you to be a widow to understand. There were, however, many other passages that did make me feel like I needed to be a widow to understand. I understand grief is fluid and changing and maybe never really leaves you, but as the book swung between 1982 and present day, I didn't get the feeling that Helen had progressed much beyond her initial stages of grief. And, ok, maybe that does happen to people. It does not, however, make for a particularly compelling character in a character-driven fictional story. I felt like if Moore really wanted to focus on the acute grief and the ways that it affected Helen so deeply, we could have just stayed in years immediately following the disaster. The present day stuff was a bit irrelevant.
Another - perhaps nit picky - detail that drove me nuts was the way Moore wrote dialogue. She left out quotation marks and kept the conversations in single paragraphs so they weren't even broken up in single sentences down the page. It was confusing and felt a bit contrived.
I did enjoy the story breaks when we got a glimpse into Helen's son's life - if even for a tiny slice. It was interesting to get a different perspective on how the death of Cal affected different people in the same family. It almost paralyzed Helen while it set John free. He spent his life traveling with little commitment and even took a rather..questionable...job as a safety redundancy specialist for oil rigs. He basically took a job to cut out "unnecessary" safety protocol on oil rigs when it was neglected safety systems that sunk the Ocean Ranger in the first place.
Thankfully, I've never had to deal with such loss, so I'm definitely on the outside looking in with this one. Not for nothing though, I'm happy this novel introduced me to my new favorite thing..... nerdy Canadians.