Warning: Slightly spoilery!
August wasn’t that long ago, right? At least, it doesn’t feel that long ago since I read Melt. I remember being smitten by the cover (isn’t it beautiful?) and taken in by the thirty-year-long friendship between the two women. It can’t be easy to write about a long friendship–friendships are complicated–but Wicks really gets it; the ups and downs, the small jealousies, the long silences, and the underlying devotion to all those years of knowing someone inside out.
Friendships can especially get messy or neglected once boyfriends, husbands, and kids are on the scene, and Jess and Cait’s friendship is no different. In fact, the familiarity of it is what’s so appealing.
Cait: The wild one: “She cares about feeling everything there is to be felt. All the sensations, all the words, all the elation, all the devastation. She craves it. An uncontrolled desire, rooting and swirling within her. Hot and subterranean. The ferocious need to rebel.”
Even after settling down and having a child with Jake, “their red Gower Street row house was an intense and torrid ecosystem of love and angst.” They love but can’t stand each other at the same time, and Cait and Jake finally decide to call it quits. But are they doing the right thing? Will Cait ever get past the longing for Jake and jealousy at the thought of him moving on without her?
Jess: The sensible one. But is she really? Married to a great guy named Dan, mother of two: “There’s a flat line with Dan, like Kent’s Pond when it’s smooth, despite the surrounding tornado of two young boys. It’s calm, and she knows that’s good. But there isn’t a desire to sneak through a parking lot like spies not wanting to be caught. She wants to feel like she doesn’t want to be caught. She wants crashing waves.”
Jess can’t get over her first love. She still associates Matt with the happiest times of her life.
First love is an excavation project that never quite gets refilled. An abandoned road that’s never forgotten.
Then Matt moves back home with his family.
The desire to connect to a time that was happier is overwhelming.
Cait and Jess lean on each other through all of this. That is, until they have it out one day on the trail, when their raw, built-up emotions splutter out of them without thought: “You act so independent, so I-don’t-give-a-fuck-about-love, like you don’t want anyone, and it’s so hypocritical Cait, I mean seriously.” and “Well then. You’re the one who cheated on your husband, or you’re on your way there, ’cause I know you won’t have the strength to end things with Matt, and I know you’ll end up seeing him again, and it’s going to get worse…. I can’t f*cking watch it.”
All of the angst and pain and jealousy and hurt she has felt towards Cait throughout their decades as friends is searing and boiling within her body, landing in her broken pinky, and she’s spewing it all out, all over Signal Hill, with all of the plops of bird shit.
Besides Wicks’ convincing portrait of female friendship, there are many wonderful touches to this story: The setting of St. John’s shines through–the Avalon Mall, the Signal Hill trail; the mention of Kevin Sullivan’s production of Anne of Green Gables among other childhood favourite films; and a whole chapter of the book set in the library.
There are ‘Millicent’ connections and there are ‘Ping’ connections. And there is ‘Paper Bag Princess’ power.
These children’s classics are not random choices; friendship, reunions, girl power.
The Telegram: “The two protagonists snap and sparkle with a wonderful authenticity. They start stupid fights with their husbands. They bicker and gossip and communicate in the special shorthand of long friendship. They hurt themselves, but rush to defend each other. / They sashay with wit and realism. You’d swear you’d just passed them walking the Signal Hill trail.“
The Miramichi Reader: “The author employs snappy, smart and frank dialogue to get into the minds and hearts of the two modern protagonists and adeptly builds scenes...”
All Lit Up – Interview with Heidi Wicks: “I think as we age and grow, we become increasingly familiar with, and forgiving of, our younger selves and that’s what I learned from these women.”
Thank you to Breakwater Books for sending me a copy of this book!