Thursday, July 11, 2013

Book Review February by Lisa Moore

'In 1982, the oil rig Ocean Ranger sank off the coast of Newfoundland during the Valentine's night storm. All 84 men aboard died. February is the story of Helen O'Mara, one of those left behind when her husband, Cal, drowns.' (From the back cover)

Lisa Moore talks about her book February.

Why did I choose to read February?

-It was chosen as the book all Canada should read by Canada reads.
Learn more about that here: Lisa Moore and Trent McClellan talk about February and Canada Reads

-It's set on Newfoundland. 
Newfoundland is a special place for both my dad and I.
My dad was stationed in Newfoundland during the Second World War.
Newfoundland was one of the provinces I worked in as a Katimavik participant.

-To learn from a master
At the time, I was attempting to develop a character whose circumstances were similar to Helen's.

My favourite quotes...

John (Helen's son) has dysgraphia.
It 'made him see all numbers and letters backwards and sometimes upside down. John had overcome this, compensated, faked his way through... He'd gained form his mild disability an unshakable certainty that things were not always what they appeared to be.' (p. 26 - 27)

Although there is no doubt that Helen is the central figure in February, John is a important minor character.  

'I'm ready [the instructor] said. Are you?
Helen put on the indicator like [the instructor] said. She put the car in gear. [The instructor] turned and looked behind and sat forward and rolled his shoulders, and then he said she could go, and she put her foot on the accelerator, but she hit it too hard and she'd had the car in reverse not drive, and they slammed backwards, burning rubber, and lurched to a stop, and she bounced against the seat belt hard, and so, she saw did [the instructor].
Mrs. O'Mara, he said. Can I call you Helen?
Yes, she said.
Helen, we have to go forward.' ([p. 213 - 214)

And Helen has to go forward. She has to leave what happened in 1982 and continue with the rest of her life. But something--a memory, something--always brings her back to Cal.

'The dead are not individuals, she thought. They are all the same. That's what made it so very hard to stay in love with them... Nothing ever happened to them, they did not change or grow, but they didn't stay the same either...
The act of being dead, if you could call it an act, made them very hard to love. They'd lost the capacity to surprise. You needed a strong memory to love the dead.' (p. 246 - 247)

Lisa Moore taught me how to develop a character--outside and in. I know Helen--her thoughts, dreams, longings, fears--her inner life. Like a friend, I remained with her right up until the final, tenderly hopeful last page.

I know my writing has benefited (and will continue to benefit) from reading such a deeply written book.