Hands down, Lisa Moore's excellent February might just be my favourite Can-lit book of the year. When I read it over about 24 hours in the hospital I couldn't help but admire both Moore's storytelling abilities, how her plot drifts around like clouds but with all the purpose of the weather behind them, and her emotional resonance, how each of the characters carry their sadness and happiness around with them in almost equal measure.
In 1982, almost at the start of their lives together, at the very least within the first, happy, happy years, Helen O'Mara's husband Cal tragically loses his life in a major oil rig accident. Over the course of the novel, moving backwards and forwards from the past to the present (sometimes even within the same paragraph), Moore reveals Helen's life. How she raised her four children almost by herself, how they grow up, stay or leave, and relate to her as both a mother and then a grandmother. But the astonishing truth about the story isn't just Helen's ability to get on with her life while at the same time being utterly unable to forget Cal, it's more how she manages to fit all of the pieces in without completely breaking down outwardly.
The sharp contrast between the Helen that lives inside her mind and the reality of Helen's world ensures February endlessly (and easily) drifts between the two pulling the reader closer and closer to the character. It's impossible not to get emotionally involved with Helen's life, with the loss of her greatest love, with her difficult relationship to her equally difficult son, with the glimmer of hope when the chance for happiness comes around.
In short, I guess you could say that I loved this novel. And I can't think of a better book to start off my latest Canadian Book Challenge. That's one down. Also, I was reminded of Marilynne Robinson's equally excellent Home while reading February. They both have similar plots in the sense that a son must return home to face up to the consequences of their lives...if you enjoy Robinson's writing, you would enjoy Moore's latest.