We meet Jess and Cait, best friends and cusp-millennials, in 2016 during a funeral reception for Jess’s mother. Cait comforts Jess while assessing her own complicated relationship with her husband, Jake.
As Jess notes, “Cait and Jake have been at each other for years. Pick-pick-picking like crows jabbing their beaks into other people’s garbage.” Cait, a CBC host and the more daring of the two, is about to make a significant life decision. Jess, a teacher, had opted for a ‘normal’ life with Dan and two boys, but now craves something different. Their choices and unexpected obstacles will lead them down roads they don’t always want and force them to make hard choices.
The reader will enjoy glimpses of St. John’s life through the lilt of locals’ conversation, treks through local landmarks, and humorous references such as “being sunburned like lobsters: The Newfoundland base tan.” And the story is enhanced by elements of Newfoundland history, such as the painful words of the federal fisheries minister still echoing from the 1992 moratorium declared on cod-fishing:
“You don’t have to abuse me!” shouted the minister. “I didn’t take the goddamned fish out of the water!” His tailored jacket, his Old Spice suffocated by the fishermen and women and plant workers’ salty tears, guts and souls, and way of life, splattered all across the wharf.
Cait recalls wanting to leave after high school as she too has a love/hate relationship for her home province:
The land of rain and drizzle and fog, or RDF as the locals affectionately and hatefully call it. The land of economic depression, stuck on a loop, decade after decade of bad decisions and utter bullshittery.
Melt is a modern relationship story: friends, husbands and wives, parents and children with the challenges that these connections bring. The author employs snappy, smart and frank dialogue to get into the minds and hearts of the two modern protagonists and adeptly builds scenes:
“Thump, thump, her heart’s in her throat, Pink Floyd soundtrack at top volume, like the idiosyncratic climax of the Atom Heart Mother suite. She plunges her hand into her bag, departing land and descending into a psychedelic abyss of oceanic life: Lip gloss. Tissues that may or may not be blotted with lipstick or boogers. Forgotten Happy Meal toys. A God-knows-how-old granola bar. Time is simultaneously warp speed and sloth slow. Finally, she fishes tweezers from her bag. “Keep him pinned there, Dan.”
Melt is an entertaining read for its demographic by a writer with literary chops. However, odd insertions into dialogue detracted somewhat from the writing in my view, as in this example: “So,” the sun warms Cait’s shoulders, “you’re working on something new here? What is it?”
About the Author: HEIDI WICKS has written for The Telegram, The Independent, Newfoundland Quarterly, CBC, and The Globe and Mail. In 2019, she won the Cox and Palmer Creative Writing Award. She lives in St. John’s.
- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: Breakwater Books (June 8, 2020)
- Language: English
- ISBN: 9781550818246
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About the Reviewer: Patricia Sandberg escaped a law career and became a writer. Her short stories have been shortlisted in competitions, published at The Cabinet of Heed and in the Lit Mag Love Anthology. She is hard at work on a World War I historical novel. Her 2016 award-winning, nonfiction book Sun Dogs and Yellowcake: Gunnar Mines, a Canadian Story is about life in a uranium mine in northern Canada during the height of the Cold War.