The frabjous day (calloo! callay!!!) is finally here. Canada Reads begins tomorrow.
For those of you not in the know, Canada Reads is a nationally-broadcast radio competition where five people each defend a book that they have chosen to be the book all Canada should read. And lots of us Canadian bibliophiles listen and cheer for our favourite books and whine when they are voted off. Last book standing is the winner. And the debates begin, on CBC radio and online, tomorrow, March 8!!
Since I am once again giving up fiction for Lent (and am running through the reviews of my nonfiction LentBooks as I complete them) I made sure to get all the Canada Reads books out of the library as soon as they were announced months ago and zip through them. I excluded Ann Marie Macdonald’s Fall on Your Knees on the grounds that I had read it years ago and had no desire to re-read it. Mini-review: beautifully written; way too depressing. So obviously my vote doesn’t go to that book.
The first new read I plunged into was Marina Endicott’s Good to a Fault. It was a slow start and took a few chapters before I really got into it, but I ended up loving it. I then proceeded on through Wayson Choy’s The Jade Peony and Nicholas Dickner’s Nikolski. Both, also beautifully written, but there wasn’t quite enough story there to content me. The Jade Peony was really three lovely linked novellas, but I wanted more from each story. The inter-relations between the three characters in Nikolski were fascinating, but the fact that they never came together felt like a clever literary device that didn’t satisfy. In a way, it was another three separate novellas problem; though the chapters were interspersed, the storylines weren’t.
Then I met my Waterloo in the form of Douglas Coupland’s Generation X. Sometimes the problem with a book is just that it’s been way too overhyped before you ever pick it up. Other times, the problem is that I don’t like the characters. I read about five chapters of Generation X and found myself wishing all three characters would die in a tragic fire so I wouldn’t have to read about them anymore. To my shame, I returned Generation X to the library when someone put in a request for it (I guess that worked out well for them) and never tried it again. So you could say I failed at my attempt to read my way through Canada Reads.
But it’s OK. I’m at peace, because I found one book I truly loved. Good to a Fault is, in its simplest form, about a middle aged woman I can easily relate to, whose midlife crisis takes the form of responding to what she thinks might be the prompting of the Holy Spirit to do something risky — like let a homeless family move into her house. What follows is honest, funny, tragic, and (one of my favourite things in a book) a realistic exploration of how faith, hope and love can touch and transform ordinary lives. It’s so good I will mention it in the same breath as Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead and Home, which from me is high praise indeed.
So, I’ll be listening avidly to see how Canada Reads goes and how my favourite book fares. I may also be doing some updates here before I get back to reviewing my Lenten reading list, so keep watching!