The Remembering by Susan Sinnott

Content warning: this novel deals with extensive discussion of a past sexual assault, the resulting trauma, and the continued trauma journey over time.

The colourful cover of The Remembering by Susan Sinnott holds a complicated story: a novel about trauma, and the complex ways that you live with it; the coming of age of a young girl in Newfoundland; a bustling family saga; and a tender portrait of Alzheimer’s and caregiving. This sounds like a lot, and it is! But nothing was more central to the novel than the love and even joy woven through it.

Liz Wallace, the widowed matriarch of the family, worries about all three of her daughters, but Eve, her youngest, the most. And her worry is born out in 1993, when Eve and her husband Michel come home from a trip to Mexico, which ended horribly: while Michel went for a swim, Eve was attacked and raped. And suddenly, the path of the next twenty years of their lives is changed forever. Eve learns she’s pregnant several months after the rape, and she decides to give her baby up for adoption, now that it’s too late to abort. And yet – when she holds her daughter for the first time, Eve is in love. Liz worries, but even after Michel leaves, Eve and Rosie and surrounded in love: Ginny and Carlie, Liz’s other daughters, step in and step up.

As Rosie grows up, Eve’s trauma becomes more complicated, and so does the rest of the family’s worry about what to tell Rosie when she starts to ask about her father. And during all of this, Liz’s memory starts to fail, details and names slipping from her mind, a descent into dementia that looks familiar to anyone who has experience. Told through the viewpoints of Liz, Carlie, and Rosie, their family story unspools over decades, creating a sweeping, tender family story. The fullness of the story is incredibly true to life, and Sinnott’s writing, in its strongest moments, drives a stake in your heart.

My own grandmother had Alzheimer’s in her final years, and some of the moments which spoke most deeply to me were Rosie’s thoughts. When Liz moves in with Eve and Rosie, Rosie reflects: “Nana had always been so wise and now she was all bewildered. It brought a lump to Rosie’s throat, the unfairness of it all…Nana had been perfect.” I had to put down the novel to cry – Sinnott captured my feelings about my grandmother’s Alzheimer’s with such clarity.

Some of the different parts of the novel were less poignant than others, but when Sinnott drilled down to the emotions and ruminations of each of her main characters, she knocked it out of the park. The Remembering is a tough novel, but a good one for all of us who have loved, lost, and been hurt.

Susan Sinnott is a Newfoundland writer who grew up in the UK and now lives in St. John’s. Her first novel, Catching the Light (2018) won the 2019 Ann Connor Brimer Award and was long- and short-listed for several awards, including the 2020 International Dublin Literary Award. The Remembering is her second novel.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Vagrant Press (Oct. 27 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 288 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1774711001
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1774711002

 -- Website

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.