Friday, September 27, 2013

Staff Pick - Baggage by Jill Sooley

Families can be awkward at the best of times, and blended families take great care and tact to negotiate the delicate dynamics that can develop. Jill Sooley's novel Baggage (M), set in modern day St. John's and extending back a decade or so, explores one such blended family through the eyes of three women.

Marie is a divorced woman with a daughter who had been alone for nine years having been abandoned by her husband. She is ready for a new relationship, both for companionship and security. Ray is newly widowed and a father of daughter who meets Marie one snowy afternoon on the Metrobus at the Avalon Mall, unfortunately on the day of his wife's funeral. Their attraction is immediate and, to both their daughters' dismay, they quickly form a lasting relationship.

Marie is ready to put her past behind her and plans to care for Ray's daughter Lolly as she does for her own daughter Floss until Lolly loves her. Marie wants to love Lolly but she is constantly rebuffed. Ironically Lolly longs for Marie's love but fears both losing the memory of her mother and sharing her father's affection. Floss longs for the love of a father and is hurt that Ray can't express that emotion towards her. Ray, a man who is silent and emotionally awkward, is in a desperate situation able to please no one completely and so always defaulting to protect Lolly. Forward in time adult Lolly and Floss carry the scars as well as the love that this blended family has created into their own complicated adult relationships.

Baggage contains vividly drawn and entirely realistic characters who each have their own claim to the truth. The story is told from each woman's perspective and one is no more credible nor less likable than the other. Even the men, Ray and Lolly's ex Gabe, though we only see them through the women's perspective, come to life in their own right. Baggage is compulsively readable and the story is told with sincerity, clarity and humour.

Baggage by Jill Sooley won first place in the Canada-East-Best Regional Fiction category of the Independent Publishers Awards.

Lost in the Forest (M)
by Sue Miller

"Eva, a divorced and happily remarried mother of three, runs a small bookstore in a town north of San Francisco. When her second husband, John, is killed in a car accident, her family’s fragile peace is once again overtaken by loss. Emily, the eldest, must grapple with newfound independence and responsibility. Theo, the youngest, can only begin to fathom his father’s death. But for Daisy, the middle child, John’s absence opens up a world of bewilderment, exposing her at the onset of adolescence to the chaos and instability that hover just beyond the safety of parental love. In her sorrow, Daisy embarks on a harrowing sexual odyssey, a journey that will cast her even farther out onto the harsh promontory of adulthood and lost hope." publisher

Other People's Children (M)
by Joanna Trollope

"When a man and a woman get married, things can get complicated — and even more so when a man and a woman who are divorced get remarried. And when there are children from previous marriages, ‘complicated’ can become the understatement of the century. Other People’s Children concerns that expanding social unit: the stepfamily. It explores the myths, the truths, the ridiculousness, the tenderness and the difficulties of trying to simultaneously deal with present relationships, past relationships and, above all, other people’s children." publisher

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