One thing that makes this a standout for me is the multiple narrators. Almost all the characters are given a voice at some point in the book, while some characters have more ‘air time’ than others. This allows us to see all the different angles of this crazy family over the course of one weekend.
A split second, and then everything changes. So many moments that cleave our lives in two.
Finn: (Another Serafina – shortened to Finn instead of Serrie) It was just a regular morning in her static life in Mississauga when Finn started getting phone calls from reporters wanting to ask her questions about the Conqueror of Kakabeka Falls. It turns out the Conqueror of Kakabeka Falls is her mother; she’s gone over a waterfall in a barrel and a video of it has gone viral. Miraculously, she is still alive, and in a coma. So, Finn is heading home for the first time in three years. The last time she saw her family was at her sister’s wedding where she accidentally kissed her sister’s new husband while trying to convince him to get out while he still could, causing a big fight/scene/further crack in the already extensively damaged relationship she has with her twin sister, Nicki.
She has until nine the next morning, when her plane takes her home to Thunder Bay, to transform her life into something she’s not acutely ashamed of.
She expects the absolute least from people. Including herself.
Nicki: Nicki has a foul mouth, a wild streak, 4 children by 3 different fathers by the time she’s 26, and holds a huge grudge against her sister. But, when she slept with her sister’s boyfriend of 8 years, it was for Finn’s own good. Dallas just wasn’t good enough for her.
Moments like this are what Nicki lives and dies for. Life smashed into a pulp on the ground in front of you, split open, bleeding and convulsing. Those seconds where you can see, in stark relief, the essence of everything that is important, its bright gory beating heart, without the glaze of everyday , mundane, boring details.
Shawn: Shawn seems like the only calm one in the family. He’s the oldest, but isn’t their biological brother, which makes him feel all the more determined to prove his place in the family by trying to hold everyone together while Kate is in the hospital. And, then , of course, he has his own family; Katriina and the boys.
But is it the big moments that make up a family? Or is it the quiet conversations on the front porch over a hand of cards, playing Star Wars in the backyard, the mundane arguments, the shared meals and baseball games and cups of tea with a shot of whiskey? He doesn’t know, so he has to be there for all of them, collect them all and hope in the end they add up to something that feels like a real family.
Katriina: Katriina has been trying to keep it together for years. For Shawn’s sake. But now, after three miscarriages, and being a part of the crazy Parker family, Katriina just can’t take anymore. She wants to get away from the Parkers, and she wants her husband to herself. The only thing right now that makes her feel any kind of relief is pain. She finds herself graduating rapidly from the rubber band around her wrist to more serious acts.
She stands there, waiting for her heart rate to drop, for the world to return to normal again, and thinks about how it was just like her to be so undone by someone else’s tragedy when she was standing in the middle of her own.
Walter: ‘Waiting Walter’ has loved Kate all his life, but has never been able to quite figure her out, and has always been afraid of losing her. Now, he doesn’t know what to do. And he has so many questions; about Kate, about their past, but mostly about how he is going to live without her.
Although he can’t remember a time when he didn’t love her, Walter has been almost losing Kate since the beginning of their lives.
… he could never fully shake the feeling that she was merely acting – playing the role of the good mother, the perfect wife, while pushing the real Kate further and further down.
Kate: Kate feels confused a lot of the time now. Sometimes she can’t even remember her daughters’ names. She used to be good at hiding her confusion from people; developed ways to deflect the attention, but now it’s getting harder. Like right now, she’s in a car driving to the US, but she’s not sure where she’s going or why. She does know that the girl next to her is her granddaughter, and London seems to know what she’s doing. Kate will just go along with it.
Sometimes Kate wonders: did these things really happen, or is she just imagining them? … Maybe everything she remembers is false, anyway. Maybe her memories have all been stolen and replaced with fake ones, and the ones that can’t be replaced simply disappear.
London: 16 years old, loves sharks, is an outcast at school because of her family and her eco-ism, in love with marine biologist and TV show host Adam Pelley, might even follow him into the middle of Lake Superior to save the ‘lake shark’ if she could only find someone willing to take her there. When London discovers that her grandmother has come out of her coma, she takes advantage of the situation; Kate is only too happy to go on a little trip.
If London could be any kind of animal it would be a shark, even though most people don’t really think of fish as animals, like all those dumb girls at school who claim they are vegetarians but still chow down on fish sticks in the caf when it’s the daily special. London would like to be a nurse shark or a whale shark one that is friendly and doesn’t eat a lot of meat, one that’s sort of an underdog that just goes about its business of being awesome while great whites go around hogging all the attention.
As everyone is madly trying to figure out what happened to Kate, other secrets and revelations are revealed between family members, and long-time grudges and mis-communications are hashed out. Will the Parker family be able to work out their differences, or will they just have to live with them?
The four of them sit there, staring at the baseball game, united in their hatred of a woman who is just doing her job. But they are untied, for what is probably the first time ever.
Highly recommended reading for a good time!
Amy Jones lives in Thunder Bay, Ontario, which is where her novel is set, but she’s originally from Halifax, so I’m going to go ahead and claim her as Atlantic Canadian; I’m pretty sure she’d want me to. This is her first novel.
Thunder Bay seems to be a successful setting for novels these days. Last year I read Wake the Stone Man and If I Fall, If I Die, both set in Thunder Bay. I’ve never been there, but I’m starting to feel like I have.
Others who have loved this book:
*Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book for review. All the quotes have been taken from an uncorrected proof.