On this hazy, humid Sunday morning, as I sip my chai tea and nibble away at a yummy vanilla scone, I am lamenting the passing of summer. I love the fall weather, with its refreshing, bright days and cool nights. I love wearing sweaters and jeans and putting on a jacket, bundling up to stay warm. And of course I love the changing colours of the leaves, the fiery brilliance that can be found everywhere, and can turn even the most mundane country road into an awesome collage of colours. But there is always, for me, a sense of nostalgia, a sense of an ending, and of course a new beginning, when September comes around. It is a time when I take stock of my life, reexamine what I’ve done, where I am, and where I want to be. More than ever, since I’ve been working according to the school calendar, I am experiencing this, as I gear up to return to work tomorrow morning. Fall is also the time when many great books are published and excellent films are released, just in time for awards season. I’m looking forward to that, too. Fall is my favourite season for so many reasons, but I'm also always a bit wistful at this time of year.
I read two awesome books by Canadian writers this past week (I’m also lamenting the passing of my “two books per week” reading time!) The first was debut novel The Mountain Can Wait by Sarah Leipciger, which opens with a man driving down a deserted road through the woods late at night, distracted by his search for a small metal tin. Suddenly a face appears in the headlights of his car, followed by an unmistakable thump. The man gets out of the car to check for the person, and finds her in the ditch, legs sticking unceremoniously out of the weeds. He walks slowly and carefully back to the car, and leaves. What follows is an exploration into the dynamics of one family, and the psychology of each member. Tom is the single father of two grown children, Curtis, 22 and Erin, 17. His wife, Elka, walked out when Erin was only months old, and has never been seen again. Tom runs a tree-planting company in northern BC, and hopes to sell up and buy a secluded cabin the the woods at the end of the planting season. But he faces challenges as Curtis appears more troubled than usual. He tries to connect with both Curtis and Erin, who is becoming a young woman before his eyes, but, while he can fix anything around the house, he doesn’t know how to fix his broken family. When forced to make a choice, can Tom and Curtis find the strength to do the right thing? This novel is so many things: a mystery, an adventure, even a bit of a love story. But for me it seemed to be mainly about different relationships: fathers and sons, fathers and daughters, relationships within communities, the relationships man has with the earth and with nature, and even the relationship man has within himself, and the ways a person must come to terms with who he or she is. The descriptions of the wilds of the west coast were detailed and elegant, and the exploration into the inner working of a family headed by a man who is more comfortable alone in the woods than taking care of two children is done with sensitivity and skill. While there were parts of the novel that felt like a bit of rambling, these parts were short, and were ultimately necessary to create the whole fabric of the family, setting and community. Although the author is a woman, she does an excellent job of portraying the inner life and thoughts of Tom, a male character, and even Curtis, his son. Strange that she doesn’t write about Erin’s thoughts or experiences, since she is the only female who is also a character central to the story. I would highly recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys character-driven novels, or for anyone who likes novels set in parts of Canada that they are not familiar with.
And I read Asylum by Jeannette de Beauvoir, a mystery set in modern-day Montreal that explores the unsavoury past of this great city. Martine LeDuc works as a PR person for the city, promoting events and helping to keep the tourist industry flourishing. When a fourth body is discovered on a park bench, raped, murdered and displayed publicly, as were three previous bodies, Martine is enlisted to be a liaison between the team of police and detectives working on the cases and the mayor. Could there be a serial killer loose in Montreal? This would seriously impact the tourist trade, and everyone wants this murderer found and the case wrapped up as soon as possible. When Martine pairs up with Julian Fletcher, a rich-boy-turned-detective, they uncover possible links to the city’s past, reaching back to the 1950s, when orphans and mental patients were subjected to experimental treatments of all kinds, including drugs, electroshock therapy, and even lobotomies. The police suspect that the crimes are the work of a sexually motivated serial killer, but the victims were all different ages, social classes and appearances. Martine and Fletcher dig deeper into the city's terrible past, a past that someone wants to stay hidden… someone who will stop at nothing to see that this happens. I am a huge fan of the tv series “Criminal Minds”, and this book was a bit like “Criminal Minds: Montreal”. It was fast-paced, descriptive, gruesome, horrific, and unputdownable (my new favourite word!). The author did a good job of not only highlighting Montreal's shocking past, but of also describing in detail the beauty and splendor of the city, much as Martine would have done in her PR job. The author’s note at the end of the book described the real events on which the book was based, facts that are horrifying without any fictional embellishment. It made this reader think about these events, and wonder how this could have happened, and if it happened then, what could still be happening now? Not a cozy mystery, for sure, but one that is sure to hold the interest of mystery lovers who are not squeamish.
That’s all for today. Get outside and enjoy the sun while it’s out!!