Wednesday, September 14, 2011
April's a Huge Fan of This Writer and This Book
Told in the first person, as a narrative of Lilly Bere's life over seventeen days, On Canaan's Side opens as she mourns the loss of her grandson, Bill. Lilly revisits her past, going back to the moment she was forced to flee Ireland, at the end of the First World War, and continues her tale in America, a world filled with both hope and danger. At once epic and intimate, Lilly's story unfolds as she tries to make sense of the sorrows and troubles of her life and of the people whose lives she has touched. Spanning nearly seven decades, from the Great Depression to World War II and the Vietnam War, it is the heartbreaking story of a woman whose capability to love is enormous, and whose compassion, even for those who have wronged her, is astonishing.
"To describe Barry's grasp of the English language as coming from the gods isn't as over the top as one might think. His sentences, turns of phrase, and just word choice in general deserve to be highlighted, ruminated on, discussed in large groups, and just adored. (I'm a fan; can you tell?)
The basic story of On Canaan's Side is easy enough to breakdown: Lily Bere has just lost her grandson. In an effort to gain perspective and to get her decades of life off her chest, she begins a journal. A journal that only lasts for seventeen days, but covers nearly seven decades. Lily chronicles her childhood in Ireland as the country slips from rebellious state to independence, her forced exodus from her home to a country that is impossible for her to know, and the lives of loved ones this new country pulls away from her.
The novel is intense and moving despite its brevity and simplicity. Lily is a trustworthy and redeemable character who makes you want to lie down and mourn with her. To celebrate her strengths and weaknesses.
Read this with a highlighter. Or with someone who will appreciate your stopping and reading passages aloud."