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February by Lisa Moore

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Lisa Moore, of St. John’s, Newfoundland, will read from her most recent novel, February, on Wednesday 22 September at 7:30 pm at the Charles W. Stockey Centre in Parry Sound.

Lisa Moore will read from her most recent novel, February.

February is the story of a woman still dealing with the death of her husband, who perished in the Ocean Ranger disaster, an oil rig which sank off the coast of Newfoundland on February 1982. “The sinking of the rig is a deeply important part of our history here, and I’m happy be bringing it to a wider audience,” said Moore.

The story takes place in 1982, in February, Valentine’s Day in fact, when the oil rig, the Ocean Ranger, fell into the sea and all were drowned. No survivors. It also takes place in 2008 as Helen, the widow of Cal, who died that day, begins another day of her own life.

Helen and Cal loved each other well, his death was devastating for Helen and their children. There is the scene of Helen watching the couple next door through her window, and she wonders “Why Cal? Why me?” Her intense jealousy at the happiness of others, when she is so raw with grief.

When Cal died, Helen was pregnant with her fourth child, one that Cal would never know. The eldest, John, takes on the role of “man of the house” – a term I remember from my 1950’s childhood – what a terrible burden to place on a child.

John, as an adult, has not found the love his parents had – he might have, but he refuses to make the commitment of marriage and children. One scene has John meeting a woman, a psychic, in a bar. John doesn’t want to know what’s in the future. “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…”

Helen is 56 in November 2008 – I realize she is of my own generation, her life experience parallels my own – her memories of world events are events I also remember. Helen’s daughters, Cathy and Lulu and baby Gabrielle, grow up, their teenage years somewhat tumultuous. By the time we meet them again in 2008 the children are all adults.

When Cathy has a child, she exclaims, “Mom, she has Dad’s ears.” Such a simple observation, and how heart breaking and life affirming at the same time. That Lisa Moore has not only thought to observe this, but has been able to capture it in words, is the magic of this writer.

Of course, as time has passed, the family has grown and aged, but Cal has not. Cal will always be the young husband and father – the man who has not been there for Helen or their children as they have aged. Helen sometimes goes over the “what if’s” fruitlessly, knowing they were not to be. There is nothing that will change the past, as Helen goes alone into the future. Helen knows the difference between loneliness and solitude, one carefully crafted, the other she lives in fear of. There are moments for Helen when “she’ll remember and live through a fierce wallop of grief. It can take her by surprise. Knock her silly.” Anyone who has experienced the death of a loved one knows this experience.

This is a novel that will find you, the reader, swept away in the story, and in the language and skill of the writer.

Moore’s previous books include the short story collection Open, which was shortlisted for the Giller Prize in 2002, and the novel Alligator, which was shortlisted for the Giller in 2005.

Immediately upon finishing this book in July 2009 I contacted Lisa Moore, and she will be reading from February at the Charles W. Stockey Centre on Wednesday 22 September 2010.

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