I Am the Earth the Plants Grow Through by Jack Hannan

Introspective and lyrical, I am the Earth the Plants Grow Through by Jack Hannan takes us on a cross-country trip through time, away from Montreal of the 1970s and Montreal of the present day, following a love story and an art story. Hannan sinks us into the story of Tomas and Marie: Tomas, the photographer son of a Prince Edward Island fisherman, and Marie, the engineer daughter of an Algerian immigrant, meet while Marie is married to another man, a painter. Drawn to one another, Marie ends up leaving her husband and entering a relationship leading to marriage, and a child, while also acting as a muse for Tomas. He takes hundreds of photographs of her through their lives together, including many of his most striking works. Splitting their story into two pieces: Hannan details a motorcycle trip Tomas and Marie take to Vancouver, for a gallery showing of Tomas’s work; and the present day, where Marie has since died and Tomas, at 74, is a presence in the life of David, their son; Lorca, their daughter-in-law; and Charlie, their grandson. Lorca and David lead a much more conventional life than the romantic, art-driven days of Marie and Tomas, but their story, in many ways, reflects Marie and Tomas’s.

“I am the Earth the Plants Grow Through is an unconventional adventure: it can be meandering in places, contemplative in others, and rarely shows its hand.”

Hannan creates a beautiful, evocative story, following Tomas and Marie across the country. People tend to hold road trips as a kind of “test” of what another person is really like, and during the motorcycle trip, relatively early in their relationship, Marie and Tomas explore what it means to be together and what it means to know someone else. In the present day, Lorca and David do the same: how do you know someone, what is comfort in a relationship, and when do you stop trying? While the stories of the two couples diverge, they trod down the same paths of discovery. Rounding out the family is Charlie, a boy who routinely skips school to go observe people in the world, wondering about who they are, their relationships with one another, and how they got to that place in time.

I am the Earth the Plants Grow Through is an unconventional adventure: it can be meandering in places, contemplative in others, and rarely shows its hand. It’s a window into the lives of these three generations, and how each relationship in each generation shapes the children who come out of it. It explores the reasons we love each other and stay, and the reasons we drive each other apart. Hannan’s book is quietly triumphant: beautifully written and deeply thought-provoking.

Jack Hannan has been a hotwalker, a typesetter for Fred Louder, a bookseller, and a publisher. He is a novelist and poet who lives in Montreal, Canada, not far from the house where he was born. His first book was published in 1977, and his first novel, The Poet is a Radio, was published in 2016. His work has been shortlisted for the A. M. Klein Prize for Poetry and the Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction. His family knows he is either at home or will be back soon.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Linda Leith Publishing (Sept. 13 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 240 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1773900951
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1773900957

Alison Manley has ricocheted between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia for most of her life. Now in Halifax, Nova Scotia, she is the Cataloguing and Metadata Librarian at Saint Mary's University. Her past life includes a long stint as a hospital librarian on the banks of the mighty Miramichi River. She has an honours BA in political science and English from St. Francis Xavier University, and a Master of Library and Information Studies from Dalhousie University. While she's adamant that her love of reading has nothing to do with her work, her ability to consume large amounts of information very quickly sure is helpful. She is often identified by her very red lipstick, and lives with her partner Brett and cat, Toasted Marshmallow.