Minister Without Portfolio by Michael Winter

ministerwithoutportfolio Henry Hayward is the Minister Without Portfolio — a man free of the entanglements of a significant relationship and children, after having been left by his girlfriend Nora, because she wants to live a dangerous life.

What Nora doesn’t know or fails to notice is that living a dangerous life doesn’t mean putting your life in physical danger. It means being vulnerable — truly being in love with and loving someone — no matter what, overlooking and absolving the messy awkwardness inherent in relationships to build something worthy — a happy life together.

Together, Henry and Martha live the most dangerous of lives — trying to make a life together despite the looming ghost of Tender Morris — trying to build a family with Tender’s unborn child on the way, rebuilding a ramshackle home, literally from the ground up.

This book is a great read. Winter’s spare style reminds me of Lisa Moore — who also writes of Newfoundland. Worth your time.

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

the-wise-mans-fear-large-patrick-rothfuss The Wise Man’s Fear is book two in Patrick Rothfuss’ epic fantasy trilogy, The Kingkiller Chronicles. I enjoyed this book very much. As I approached the end — as 1285 pages in the story of Kvothe began to draw to a close — I lamented the dwindling number of pages remaining.

As in the first novel, The Name of the Wind, I struggled with Denna as a character. I find her motives vague and her constant disappearances frustrating.

After 2000+ pages of the Kingkiller Chronciles, I still only have a superficial understanding of her. I want to like her; I really do. As a reader, you learn very little about her in this book. She remains an enigma wrapped in a mystery.

Rothfuss starts to reveal more about her character during a passage in which Kvothe follows Denna into an unsavoury part of town at night. In the end, the mystery and frustration around her deepens because that night ends, and we never find out anything further about that scene. Without knowing anything about Denna’s backstory (a chapter or two in the book told from her perspective might have been helpful) you question Kvothe’s judgement as he continues to flail at a relationship with her, only to be repeatedly rebuffed with Denna’s familiar and frustrating refrain, “you’re just like all the other nasty men in my life.” Sometimes you wish that she’d disappear for good.

Despite Denna, I’m looking forward to book three, which is due out sometime in 2015.

February and March, 2014

Truth, like liquid leaking out

Then he saw the truth pass out of her face. Sometimes truth is like a physical liquid that can leak out, or when it turns into liquid there is no container for it. His dog had been fine. His parents had argued. His parents were splitting up, he knew that, but what he did not know until this moment was that no one had a practical answer for the dog. The pure truth of the event leapt off the orb of her eyeball, it was a visual story that bounced off his eyes.

Minister Without Portfolio by Michael Winter

February by Lisa Moore

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February is a novel set after the oil rig Ocean Ranger sank in a violent storm 300 km off the coast of Newfoundland on February 15th, 1982.

Cal O’Mara is a fictional victim of the rig sinking. February follows his widow Helen as she raises their four children and as the shape of her grief evolves from the sharp, stabbing pain and shock of sudden loss into the ache of long-term absence over the ensuing 25 years.

Moore’s is a distinct voice. Devoid of dialogue, she uses ordinary yet evocative language that’s spare, yet rich in description. I read Caught last fall, and fell immediately into Moore’s cadence, reminiscent of the gentle lilt of of a Newfoundland accent.

This book does an amazing job of exploring grief through Helen’s eyes without ever devolving into the maudlin. Cal appears in the book only through Helen’s memories of their wedding night and their first ten years of marriage, so many of which are the ordinary stuff of a simple, loving, domestic existence — the struggles to raise three children born in quick succession, pleasures like found kites and paperback books read in companionable silence.

Even though you never meet him first-hand, Moore’s brilliance is that Cal isn’t a tragic figure — he’s fully formed and as a reader you can’t help but empathize with the magnitude of Helen’s loss.

Highly recommended and worth your time.

February, 2014

You need a strong memory to love the dead

We have grown apart, she thought. She’d gone on without him. She would have sat next to him and peeled the apple and she would have felt like his mother. The dead are not individuals, she thought. They are all the same. That’s what made it so very hard to stay in love with them. Like men who enter prison and are stripped of their worldly possessions, clothes, jewellery, the dead were stripped of who they were. Nothing ever happened to them, they did not change or grow, but they didn’t stay the same either. They are not the same as they were when they were alive, Helen thought.
The act of being dead, if you could call it an act, made them very hard to love. They’d lost the capacity to surprise. You needed a strong memory to love the dead, and it was not her fault that she was failing. She was trying. But no memory was that strong. This was what she knew now: no memory was that strong.

February by Lisa Moore

The present dissolving into the past

The present is always dissolving into the past, he realized long ago. The present dissolves. It gets used up. The past is virulent and ravenous and everything can be devoured in a matter of seconds.

That’s the enigma of the present. The past has already infiltrated it; the past has set up camp, deployed soldiers with toothbrushes to scrub away all of the now, and the more you think about it, the faster everything dissolves. There is no present. There was no present. Or, another way to think about it: your life could go on without you.

February by Lisa Moore

Always one shoe. Gone.

This is what Helen has learned: it is possible to be so tired you cannot reach for the sky, you cannot breathe. You can’t even talk. You can’t pick up the phone. You can’t do a dish or dance or cook or do up your own zipper. The children make such a racket. They slam around. They play music on bust or they lie on the couch watching soap operas. They fight and smash things and lose their virginity or they lose their way. They need money and they need to borrow the car. One shoe is always missing. You go through the bookbags, you go through the closet; always one shoe. Gone.

February by Lisa Moore