Tag Archives: growing up

Some People’s Children by Bridget Canning

Some People’s Children* is Bridget Canning’s second novel, and effectively debunks the myth of the ‘sophomore slump.’ The novel follows Imogene Tubbs as she navigates the difficulties of life as a teenage girl living in rural Newfoundland.

Imogene has been raised by her Nan and has a complicated and at times tense relationship with her mother, Maggie. She has never met her father, and his identity forms the central mystery that drives the plot. Questions and rumours surrounding her paternity dredge up gossip and torment from her peers, and create a deep sense of insecurity and often self-loathing in Imogene. As she travels between her small community of St. Felix’s and the comparatively urban St. John’s, Imogene muses about what her life could have been, or perhaps should have been, and what she would like for it to be.

“Canning has crafted a crew of complicated people who are realistic in their flaws, routines, and idiosyncrasies.”

Moving between the poles of isolation and intimacy so emblematic of small-town life, Some People’s Children effectively balances a sense of impending dread at the exposition of past secrets with astute and often-times comical reflections on female development and self-discovery. No character is altogether likable or loathsome. Instead, Canning has crafted a crew of complicated people who are realistic in their flaws, routines, and idiosyncrasies. Indeed, Canning writes of Newfoundland without romanticism or sentimentality. Events in the novel unfold between 1974 and 1993, but this is not a nostalgic text. Major events in the province at the time – the cod moratorium, for example – rest deep in the background of the narrative. These historical signposts scaffold an understanding of the social and economic issues in both St. Felix’s and St. John’s, but never overtake Imogene’s narrative.

Canning’s writing is smooth and strong. She is a master of language, comparison, and local dialect. While reading, there were many moments where I had to stop and think about the images being presented. Brief descriptions of certain characters, for example, ask the reader to think about more than mere appearance: “From a distance, her head is a fresh popcorn kernel” or “From a distance, he looks like a bird with its head tucked under its wing, avoiding the light in order to sleep.” Positioning and perspective are key and raise questions for the reader – where is Imogene as she watches those around her? Why is there a lingering sense of isolation and separation that grows stronger as the novel develops? The narrative refuses to lay out these answers or provide easy insight, instead asking readers to commit to the slow unfolding of Imogene’s life. We are witnesses to her growth and watch her develop an understanding of her origins, herself, and her place in the world.

This is not to imply these lingering questions are disruptive; on the contrary, this is what good fiction does. It pulls you in. It makes you ruminate. It forces you to stop and mull things over and to sit in spaces of discomfort and beauty. Good fiction sticks with you after you step away and calls you back, asking to be read again and again.

And I want to go back. While the final chapters of the novel feel a bit rushed, I immediately wanted to return to Imogene’s world – to have Jiggs’ dinner with Nan and Maggie, to drink beer with Liam, Rita, and Jamie, to ponder over Cecil Jesso and his cast of seedy friends. I also want more of Canning’s prose. In short, Some People’s Children is a fantastic sophomore novel, and Canning is a writer to watch.

*This review of Some People’s Children is based on an electronic copy of the final version which was supplied by the publisher.

BRIDGET CANNING was raised on a sheep farm in Highlands, NL. Her first novel, The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes, was shortlisted for the BMO Winterset Award, The Margaret and John Savage First Book Award (Fiction), and the Newfoundland and Labrador Book Award for Fiction. She lives in St. John’s.

  • Publisher : Breakwater Books (May 15 2020)
  • Language : English
  • Paperback : 256 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1550818120
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1550818123

Please note if you choose to purchase this book (or Kindle version) through Amazon using the link below we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you cannot see the Amazon ad below (if you are using an ad blocker, for instance) here is the link: https://amzn.to/2xnvMBH Thanks!  

This article has been Digiproved © 2020 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Even Weirder Than Before by Susie Taylor

I have grown to dislike the overused term “coming of age” but that’s how many reviewers will describe Susie Taylor’s Even Weirder Than Before (2019, Breakwater Books), a chronicle of Daisy Radcliffe’s life journey from Grade 8 through the end of high school in the late 80s/early 90s. Fast-paced, it hits all the highs and lows of the teen years: boring classes, romances, school plays, house parties (and drinking too much), teen pregnancies and more. If you grew up in this era before smartphones and PCs, when telephones still had cords, you’ll be able to relate and you’ll love every page. Even though I went to high school a decade and a half earlier than Daisy and her friends, there was still much to identify within this bittersweet tale set in and around Toronto.

“This is the truest depiction of what it feels like to grow up that I’ve read in a very long time.”

Lisa Moore
As an example of contemporary fiction, it recalled to mind another excellent book from Breakwater Books, The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes.  (2017) While it is set in a different time period (the digital age), it too was a balanced mix of humour and commentary on the times.

Some favourite passages:

  • I stare at the back of Wanda’s head during last period. Her hair is shiny and thick like in shampoo commercials. sometimes she grabs it and piles it on top of her head; when she lets go, it tumbles down like a waterfall. Mine is always full of static and sticks flatly to my face. I try casually playing with my own hair like Wanda does, and a bunch of dandruff drifts down onto my desk.
  • “We’re going to have fun in high school,” says Wanda.
    “Are we?” I ask.
    “We’re going to blow everyone’s minds,” she says. I almost believe her.
  • It’s good to get out of the apartment. Mum gets burgers for us all at the drive-through, and we eat them in the parking lot of Mr. Burger Giant. There is a sign for Mr. Burger Giant on a tall pole. We watch it as we eat. It is a huge lit-up burger face wearing sunglasses and a top hat. It flickers a little, and then while we are watching, the left side burns out like it’s had a stroke.
  • My house is closer. We sneak in quietly, but Mum hears us anyway.
    “Daisy?” she calls down.
    “It’s just me,” I yell in my brightest I-have-not-been-drinking-or-smoking-or-sleeping-in-a-cemetery voice.

As I progressed through the book, I came to appreciate all the different characters Ms. Taylor has created, and it truly appears as if a teen is talking to you, disclosing all the personal stuff she cannot (or will not) share with her Mum or other adults. In high school, we kept to our close friends and we lived our lives together and shared experiences in a manner that we might never do with anyone ever again. An ideal summer read it will leave any reader of any age with a smile on their face, nostalgic for a more innocent time in our lives. I will add it to the 2020 longlist for a “The Very Best!” Book Award in the First Book (Fiction) category.

To learn more about her book, there’s an insightful interview with Susie Taylor at the All Lit Up website: https://alllitup.ca/Blog/2019/An-Interview-with-Author-Susie-Taylor

Naomi at Consumed by Ink said in her review of the book that “Susie Taylor has created a memorable character in Daisy Radcliffe.”

Even Weirder Than Before by Susie Taylor
Breakwater Books

*Please note if you choose to purchase this book through Amazon using the link below I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you cannot see the Amazon ad below (if you are using an ad blocker, for instance) here is the link: https://amzn.to/2S2S1mr  Thanks!

This article has been Digiproved © 2019 James FisherSome Rights Reserved