Parry Sound Books

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Good Literature for Children & Adults

Two new novels that will entertain you for a couple of lazy days on the dock or the rocks.

Two new novels that will entertain you for a couple of lazy days on the dock or the rocks.

The Conditions of Love by Dale M. Kushner is the more complicated, more literary of the two. Although this is a first novel Dale M. Kushner has been writing poetry and short stories for a good long time, and has been well recognized for her work. This novel may not be a perfect gem, but the flaws are so few that it still shines. As the title indicates this is a book about love, love in all its guises – the love of a child for a parent, the parent who is there, and the parent who is not. Love for the other adults in a child’s life who might temporarily fill the role of parent or grandparent. Love for a life partner, appropriate or not. And kindness. The need to be needed, to be loved by someone for who you are, not for what you can provide. It is also about grief, about missing someone who has died, or simply disappeared. It is about heartbreak, and unfairness, and getting on with your life. Don’t we all just want life to be happily-ever-after? But, it is not - and Eunice, the child, and later the woman, at the centre of this novel learns early that “sadness, I knew, was like any weather, coming and going at it’s own pleasing”.

Eunice lives first with her mother, Mern, a woman who struggles to wiggle her way through what life throws at her. An elderly neighbor who cares for Eunice teaches her about music and that “books are maps, wherever you want to go a book can take you there”. Mern loves her child but isn’t there for the long run. Another woman, Rose, takes on the role of “mother” when Eunice is a teenager, Rose needing a child and Eunice still needing a mother. This time a mother who leaves Eunice with an awareness of her own strength and endurance that she will need for what life will bring in the coming years. Rose is far from the typical mother and Eunice is no girl “with Breck hair”. The years of her youth are “alternative” to say the least.

Eunice does, however, learn that no love is ever wasted, brief or otherwise, and that it is important to dream, “fantastic wishes and hopes we dream for the future, and then poof! How that future goes awry.” But, also, that love can last. “If you believed I sacrificed myself for you, you must also have known I depended on your love. I was fervently dependent and I don’t see how any love of worth can be otherwise.”

Dale M. Kushner says she was driven by the question of why some people come out on top when life is tough, why some develop resilience, why some thrive and some just survive, and what it is that keeps the heart open to love. The result is a satisfying book for a long day’s reading.

The J.M. Barrie Ladies’ Swimming Society by Barbara J. Zitwer is a whole other kettle of fish. This is a book that although I read it from beginning to end, is an example of the sort of book I can’t imagine myself reading. That being said, I read every word, catching a few typos and some repetitiveness along the way, but captivated by the soap opera-like story. The novel begins in New York City, where we meet Joey Rubin, an architect for a big firm, a lifelong New Yorker. Now in her late 30’s, she is still stinging after the end of a love affair.

Joey’s job takes her to England, working on a project to turn an estate in the Cotswold’s, where J.M. Barrie wrote Peter Pan, into a resort of sorts, and where she finds herself falling in love with the local heartthrob. Her oldest friend, Sarah, from her childhood and college years, lives in nearby London – her life so much the opposite of Joey’s. Sarah is a stay at home Mom with a houseful of children and a solid marriage. Of course, neither of these women have any financial problems – both grew up with wealth, and Sarah married into more, while Joey is earning more than enough to buy Fendi boots. I know, I know, I’m just jealous.

Sarah and Joey have been friends forever but in recent years, the demands of Sarah’s family life, and Joey’s job have caused some resentment on both parts. We meet Joey as a very capable, but not quite confident enough, architect with a bit of a chip on her shoulder. Once as close as sisters these women would like to find their way back to the closeness they once shared.

The story becomes more interesting when Joey meets Sarah’s mother-in-law. Together with her elderly friends she swims most days in a local pond, sharing the kind of life long friendship that Joey and Sarah are afraid they will never regain.

As a literary agent, this author knows what sells. In spite of the predictability and tearjerker manipulations of the writer, this novel will sell even if the attraction is just the cover and the title. For an undemanding, TV-like, pass the time on a plane or a rainy day book, it will do the trick. What it did for me was take me to the bookshelf to find my copy of Peter Pan to re-read, and to look for a biography of J.M. Barrie to read about the real boys he based his book upon.

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