WOW, two posts in one week - it must still be summer vacation! I have two week left until I go back to work, so I’m planning a reading marathon in an attempt to get through the several stacks of books I had set aside to read this summer.
I’ve made some headway this week as I finished two books that I want to tell you about, both by Canadian authors. The first is an adult novel, After the Bloom by Leslie Shimotakahara. Rita is a single mother who is struggling to come to terms with her recent divorce and questioning her abilities to be a good parent to her six-year-old daughter Kristen as she copes with her move from a large house in Willowdale to a small apartment in downtown Toronto. Her husband has moved to Vancouver and their daughter is with him for the summer, so Rita is left alone to deal with her unstable life on her own. As an art teacher, she has the summer off, giving her plenty of time to dwell on her unsatisfactory life, both past and present. To complicate matters, she gets a phone call from her mother’s new husband Gerald, letting her know that her mother, Lily, has gone missing. The police are called, but they can’t do much when there are no signs of violence or abduction, when it appears that an adult has just walked away from her life. Rita has no idea where Lily could have gone, but she is frightfully worried, as Lily is not the most mentally stable person - all her life there have been blank moments, forgetfulness and wandering, and she’s always come back, but she’s never stayed away this long. Rita tries to help Gerald find Lily, but she knows so little about her mother’s past, particularly her time in a Japanese internment camp in California, that she doesn't know where to begin. Rita also knows little about her own father, whom Lily claims abandoned the family after Rita was born. By piecing clues together and enlisting the help of Mark Edo, a fellow Japanese Canadian and professor at University of Toronto, Rita goes on a search that will uncover her family’s hidden past and help her to come to terms with who she really is. Told from the points of view of both Rita and Lily, we as readers are given inside information about Lily’s past and her experiences in the camp, information that Rita is denied again and again, and she must be resourceful and determined in order to uncover the truth about her past and her family. This is Shimotakahara’s first novel, and it was definitely an interesting story, one that needs to be told. I had a hard time identifying with either main character, but the story moved along at a good pace and kept me turning pages to find out where Lily has gone and why. Anyone who likes reading domestic fiction or is interested in the Japanese-Canadian experience would probably enjoy this novel.
And I received an advanced reading copy of a children's novel by Canadian author Sonia Tilson, The Disappearing Boy. This novel is also about family secrets and a quest to find a missing father. Thirteen-year-old Neil MacLeod has recently moved from Vancouver to Ottawa with his mom, and he is struggling to feel at home in his new school and new environment. So far he has no friends and he’s finding the weather challenging to deal with, being so different from what he was used to on the West Coast. When his mother tells him that he has a grandmother living nearby, he is shocked; his mother has never mentioned any other relatives. The relative he most desperately wants to know about is his father, but his mother keeps saying that she’ll tell him “soon” and he is tired of hearing that word. His grandmother, Margaret, is a bit more forthcoming, but determines that it is his mother who should really be the one to give him that information. He befriends Courtenay, Margaret’s neighbour, a girl whose parents are indifferent to their daughter’s well-being, and his life seems to be getting better, but after his mother puts off his demand for answers about his father one too many times, Neil storms out and heads to Margaret’s place, where, while snooping around, he uncovers a truth more shocking than he could have ever believed. He decides to run away to his grandfather’s horse farm outside of St John, New Brunswick, an escape that gives him the chance to view his life from a distance and really learn what it means to be a family. This heartwarming book puts into perspective what many children are facing these days in terms of struggles with sexual identity, for themselves and those around them, and approaches a difficult topic both realistically and with compassion. I really enjoyed this book, and read it last night in one sitting. It is recommend for kids ages 8-12, but due to the mature content, I think it’s more suitable for ages 11-13. It is due out in October.
That’s all for this week. Have a great weekend and remember to read!
Bye for now…