The Waiting Hours by Shandi Mitchell
I first met Shandi Mitchell the year after her first novel, Under This Unbroken Sky, was published in 2009. She accepted my invitation to read from her work in Parry Sound. I spent time with her driving between Parry Sound and the airport, and she stayed the night with me, sharing stories that quickly became intimate as sometimes happens when two people feel immediately understood.
Under This Unbroken Sky won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Novel, among others, and was longlisted for the very prestigious IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. I truly loved this novel – you can read a review on our website – and all of my staff, and our customers, over the past ten years have agreed it is one of the best books they have ever read.
Shandi Mitchell is both an author and a filmmaker. Her award winning films have been featured in festivals across North America.
We have been waiting for a good long time for a new novel from Shandi Mitchell. And now we have it, The Waiting Hours.
I can only say, as I opened this book, I hoped I would like The Waiting Hours as much as I liked Under This Unbroken Sky. And I did. It is not often that one reads a novel that is both a completely absorbing story – from the first page – but also one with breathtaking prose, words so perfectly pitched that the reader is swept away from any concern except for that of the characters created by a master storyteller.
The Waiting Hours is a story of people working on the front lines of contemporary society. Tamara, a 911 operator; Mike, a policeman; Kate, an emergency room nurse; and into this mix, Hassan, a taxi driver. They are all working at dangerous, intense and stressful jobs – and they all have their own story. There is the strain on a marriage, there is the childhood damage still determining the behavior of adults, there is grief. These are people expected to do their jobs without becoming involved in the lives of those who are victims or survivors of accident or attack. They are expected to be able to go home and make a life. I for one wonder how it is at all possible.
“Night shift clocked drug busts, prostitution, robberies, public intoxication, mentally unstables, and the regulars, dubbed the Lonelies. Once the bars closed, assaults rose, followed by a sharp spike in domestics, and an hour after that the DUIs, these ones often the most lethal and catastrophic – yet rarely fatal for the drunk drivers. Midnight to three brought kitchen fires, overdoes, and the attempted and achieved suicides. And finally, between the twilight of three and six, came the Waiting Hours.
These are the longest hours, when everyone hopes there wouldn’t be a call because a call then would mean something had gone very bad. If the phone didn’t ring, it meant people were just living their lives.”
You know you need to read The Waiting Hours by Shandi Mitchell.