The Canada Reads books have been steadily streaming into the library and I have finished numbers 2 and 3- they could not have been more different. I am going to somehow tie them together into one blog post though.
First up... Fall on your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald, the most successful of the Canada Reads novels, as one of Oprah's Picks and for the numerous awards it has won. The novel tells the story of the Piper family, beginning with the marriage of Materia Mahmoud, a Lebanese whose father moved to Cape Breton and established a successful grocery business, and James Piper, a piano tuner, many years her elder. The couple, their daughters and other members of their small community form the centre of this tumultuous novel. The story has everything you would not wish upon any family: a disowned daughter, unhappy marriage, violence, rape, incest and the list continues.
Unfortunately, the plot weighs down the novel. I kept thinking nothing worse could happen and then it did and then it did again. I am not afraid of 'heavy' novels, some of my favorites are, but Fall on your Knees just didn't hold up for me. The depth wasn't there, I didn't see where all the shocks were central to the plot or character development. In Clara Callan, which had some similar plot lines, Clara's rape was a turning point in her relationship with her sister and a major turning point in the plot; but, it didn't overwhelm the book and I wasn't shocked by it. And past the plot, it didn't have anything to offer me.
On an entirely different note, Nikolski by Nicholas Dickner (translated by Lazer Lederhendler) is the story of three twenty-somethings as their lives diverge, converge or come as close to converging as one can in a small Montreal marketplace. The debut novel is eccentric, wonderfully written and in many ways among the more pan-Canadian novels I have read yet. It manages to span many, many provinces and regions; mostly thanks to Noah's Chipewyan mother who is constantly traveling the middle of the country in her mobile home, but also from the Atlantic coast (loads of fish imagery), to Montreal and all the way to furthest West Coast.
The novel is about wandering spirits, youth dealing with the decisions of their parents and all the wayward meanderings of a quirky, well passed along story. So far it is easily my favorite of the Canada Reads books.
That is 3 down, 2 to go. I am waiting on the others to arrive from the library; in the meantime I have started Michael Crummey's newest, Galore.