Most Anything You Please (2017, Breakwater Books) is the first book I have read by Ms. Morgan-Cole and it is a solid saga of the Holloway family through several decades. The author was born in, and still lives in the Rabbittown neighbourhood of St. John’s:
“Over the years, I’ve discussed with many friends the fact that, when we were growing up in the 1970s, there was a family-owned convenience store on every corner, most of which have since disappeared. Most Anything You Please is the novel that grew out of those memories and conversations.” -excerpt from Author’s Note
In fact, this novel could have been called The Holloways of Rabbittown for most of the drama takes place in the new neighbourhood where Wes and Ellen Holloway open a small convenience store in the pre-WWII years. The store is Ellen’s; Wes has his construction business to run. So from the mid 30’s to the present day, we are treated to the Rabbittown worlds of Ellen, her children (specifically Audrey), her grandchildren and so on. All the while the store manages to stay in business, changing with the times, but never changing owners. While some of the family members leave Newfoundland, they typically return, for when you have nothing left, you always have family.
Audrey is the central character since she represents the middle woman in the Holloway matriarchy of Ellen, Audrey and Rachel. It is Audrey who takes us from the opening “Prelude” through the post-war years (when she marries a US serviceman and moves to his native Louisiana) to the mid-nineties. Each chapter centres on one of the three women, with an occasional “interlude” featuring one of the male Holloways. It is the creative editing and layout of the storytelling that makes this novel stand out. While it mainly sticks to a chronological format, it does, by means of the Interludes, give foregleams of the years to come. Ms. Morgan-Cole will also skip over a number of years, thus speeding up the story and keeping it focused on the significant developments.
I rated this a five-star read of fiction over at Goodreads and I highly recommend this book to those who enjoy reading family-based sagas. Most Anything You Please is one of those novels you cannot say enough good things about. I enjoyed every page of it, and I will be adding it to the 2018 Longlist for a “Very Best!” Book Award for fiction. To sum up, Ms. Morgan-Cole’s writing along with skilful editing make Most Anything You Please, in the words of author Kevin Major: “a wonderful achievement.”
Another reviewer stated: “This multi-generational story about women in Newfoundland was a joy to read.” – Consumed by Ink