The Birthday Lunch, by Joan Clark

birthdaylunchThis is a very quiet story, what I can best describe perhaps as a very intimate story, about a sudden death and its immediate aftermath. When Lily McNab (easily the most likeable person in her family) is killed in a traffic accident, her loss affects her husband Hal, her sister Laverne (who lives with them and has never gotten along well with Hal), and her two grown children, Claudia and Matt. The bereaved converge on the small New Brunswick town where Lily lived, and their tangled relationships and hidden stories are explored with careful attention to detail. For a writer like me who usually writes stories with huge epic sweep spanning decades and generations, it was instructive to examine what a writer of Joan Clark’s ability is able to bring to the story of a handful of people closely examined over the one-week period between Lily’s death and her memorial service. There’s a level of intimate observation here that’s to be expected from a writer as skillful and assured as Clark.

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