Timelines

Timelines
A review of Joanne Findon’s When Night Eats The Moon (Red Deer Press, 1999)By Derek Newman-Stille

Time travel is ultimately about responsibility – responsibility to the timeline, to the past, the present, and the future. Perhaps this is why it works so well for a Young Adult novel. In When Night Eats The Moon, Joanne Findon’s narrator, Holly, begins her voyage through time by idealising the past. She sees the past as an idealised place, separate from the issues of modernity and she wants to escape her personal circumstances (the tension between her parents and the shroud of secrets they have woven around her life) to find a reality that resonates with her desires. She has to cope with the clashing of fantasy and reality and the uncertain barrier between them. Rather than her fantasies being eclipsed by reality as occurs in so many coming-of-age narratives, Holly’s reality is expanded by the incorporation of the fantastic into her life and her fantasies are augmented by the infusion of the need for thinking about the real world impact of imagining.

Holly is placed on the edge of family secrets and forbidden knowledge beyond her understanding. Holly discovers a group of vessels filled with time that are able to transport her to the ancient past, letting her meet the builders of Stonehenge. During her voyage, she meets Evaken, a boy who has also discovered forbidden secrets in a Magician’s Apprentice narrative where he takes on magic for which he doesn’t yet have the wisdom to understand. This collision of times and secrets produces a space of healing, an integration of separate narratives, of stories divided by space and time. Holly is able to gain perspective on her own life when she encounters the violent collision of people in the past and is able to bring a perspective from the future to people in the past who need new tales to give them context on their complex world. 

Believing that she is powerless to change the world, Holly learns that she has the power to change the world. She has to come to terms with the responsibilities, challenges, and complexities of realising that she has meaning in her world and that her choices can alter the world. 

ClosetTown

A review of James K. Moran’s Town & Train (Lethe Press, 2014)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover photo of Town & Train courtesy of James K. Moran

Cover photo of Town & Train courtesy of James K. Moran

Small towns hold secrets. Because people in small towns tend to have the potential to know everything about their neighbours, secrecy is a big issue in small town life and people in small towns guard their secrets carefully. Small towns are often places of conformity, where being in any way outside the ‘normal’ is seen as a threat, a danger, and a challenge to the status quo.

James K. Moran’s Town & Train explores the rising tide of secrets in small towns and the notion that dirty laundry always eventually gets aired. Town & Train is shaped by an aesthetic of longing, a compounding of desires: the desire to leave the small town of Brandon, Ontario, for better opportunities, the desire for a sense of contact with others, a connection, the desire to keep secrets about the types of connections one is making, the desire to just change something, and the competing desire to just keep things the same and resist changes seen to be dangerous.

Moran brings a train into this small town, a train that offers the promise of new horizons, new changes, and all of the various escapes that one could desire. The conductor of the train offers tickets to dreams, but the only problem is that these dreams too easily become nightmares. Trains represent connections, the linkages between communities across the country, but this train resists connections, much like the small town of Brandon. It comes up from the subconscious to haunt the community with its darkest secrets, all that is suppressed and hidden.

Moran unites the fear of discovery with LGBTQ2 populations in Brandon, those who are at threat of losing their jobs, their friends, their family, and all of their connections if they end up coming out of the closet and acknowledging their desire. Through the train, Moran creates a parallel uniting fear and desire, which shape queer lives in small towns.

To discover more about the work of James K. Moran, visit http://jameskmoran.blogspot.ca/

Rediscovery

A review of Liz Strange’s “Erased” (Dark Continents Publishing, 2014)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover photo for Erased courtesy of the author

Cover photo for Erased courtesy of the author

Liz Strange’s “Erased” is an intersection of stories of loss and secrecy. Set in the future in a world with the capacity to erase a person’s memory with one needle stroke, “Erased” opens with character Grey Singer who has woken uncertain of her identity, her selfhood, or any markers of the person she once was. She finds identification hidden in the seams of her clothing, but it is the identification of several different people, all with her face, further complicating the question of her identity.

Singer is able to discover that she was part of covert activities, and her search for her own memory is complicated by the secrecy that she shaped around her life. This intertwining of uncertainties is made more complicated by the fact that the act of recovering her memories itself comes with a price – the potential that trying to push herself to discover more can cause a repeat of the memory loss and put her in the position of having to re-discover herself from scratch once again. Singer is in a state of perpetual discovery of her identity and perpetual loss… but the new her is someone who she may be more comfortable with anyway. The new her doesn’t have all of the barriers that are raised by trying to block herself from caring, and the new her is capable of letting down her barriers enough to love.

The only problem is that because of the secrecy her previous job required, she is now left uncertain who to trust since neither her own memories nor her records hold any keys about which people around her are safe for her to become comfortable around

Lis Strange puts readers into the position of questioning their notions of loss and considering the idea that memories may not make up everything about a person. She invites readers to explore their own engagement with the notion of memory and our social fear of the loss of memory. She plays with ideas of uncertainty, and, particularly uncertainties around identity in order to put her reader into a position of mystery, shaping the overall spy-fi story around a general feeling of curiosity.

You can discover more about the work of Liz Strange on her website at http://www.lizstrange.com

Haunted by Secrecy

A review of Robin Riopelle’s Deadroads: A Novel of Supernatural Suspense (Night Shade Books, 2014).

Cover photo for Deadroads courtesy of http://robinriopelle.com/

Cover photo for Deadroads courtesy of http://robinriopelle.com/

The Acadian Grand Derangement or Great Expulsion was a time of loss and displacement when people were uprooted and disconnected from their origins. Robin Riopelle brings these themes forward into the present in her novel Deadroads: A Novel of Supernatural Suspense, exploring an Acadian-Cajun family struggling with this continual state of disconnectedness, loss, and identity crisis. Like the ghosts they hunt, the Sarazzins are defined by their displacement, by their uprootedness and the confusion resulting from it. They are cut off from their past, isolated by secrecy about their own history.

When their mother left with their sister, Lutie, Baz and Sol had to be raised by their father, a man who wanted to erase the memory of their mother to ease his own pain and to feel stable. Sol had followed his father’s erasure of the past despite his constant defiance of the man, but Baz seeks to bind his family back together, to recover his own roots by finding the rest of his family. After their father dies, Baz seeks out Lutie, who has been living with a foster family since their mother died. Lutie has lost knowledge of her family’s ability to lay ghosts, to send them onto the deadroads to the afterlife. Her foster family saw her affinity with ghosts as a sign of mental illness, medicating her to suppress her ability, but Lutie has maintained a belief that she could control the ghosts, that she could turn them into her pets… the same issue that caused their mother to leave in the first place when she decided to keep a ghost despite their father’s insistence that ghosts should be sent on to their place of rest.

Suppressed by medication and a culture of disbelief, Lutie’s family knowledge was rendered mythic and lost. But when Baz makes a deal with a demon to find his lost sister, these siblings are reunited and a process of recovery can begin. Baz and Sol, both wanderers, perpetually drawn to the road by the desire to escape from overwhelming responsibility, are brought back to their sister, reunited as a family seeking to discover secrets about a past that was obscured by time and by a history of hiding information “for their own good.”

Deadroads is a novel about the interconnection between family responsibility and secrets, and the ability for secrets to pull a family apart and continue to haunt the lives of all of them with the absence of memory. Ghost hunting pulled the Sarazzins apart, but also brought their family back together, allowing them to begin the process of recovery through a shared notion of protection and discovery.

Angels and demons, the dead and the living, everything is a potential threat in this novel, inscribed with danger and needing to both be kept secret and to keep secrets from. Deadroads is a novel marked by uncertainty and characters coping with a deficit of knowledge and the danger that knowledge can bring to them.

To find out more about Robin Riopelle, visit her website at http://robinriopelle.com/

Darkly Dislocating

A Review of Eileen Kernaghan’s Sophie, In Shadow (Thistledown Press, 2014).

Cover Photo of Sophie, in Shadow courtesy of Thistledown Press

Cover Photo of Sophie, in Shadow courtesy of Thistledown Press

Suspended in the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean after the Titanic was pulled beneath the waves, Sophie’s life was forever marked, forever suspended between life and the icy, shadowy depths of death. Re-living her brush with death in her dreams, Sophie brings visions of tragedy into her waking world, piercing the veils of the present to experience tragedies and horrors of the past, present, and future, moments steeped in death.

Death chases Sophie like an impenetrable miasma, thickening in moments of dislocation from the quiet life and English gentlewoman is supposed to experience, and drifting in clouds of horror into Sophie’s perception.

Eileen Kernaghan creates a sense of wondrous dislocation for the reader, a darkly beautiful reminder that every place is haunted, every locale filled with ghosts of memory from the past. Sophie, In Shadow reminds readers that we dwell in a place of fantasy, of wonder and excitement, and that those dreamy places of magic and mystery are always steeped in the shadows of past horrors and veiled in secrets. We are always one step through the veil of time away from tragedy.

Kernaghan reveals landscapes written about as darkly mysterious in the era of British colonialism and scarred by that process of colonial control, made dark by the tragedies committed to maintain colonial control and mysterious by the secrecy and denials of those in power. Sophie’s sense of dislocation from a life marred by tragedy and her ability to see tragedies of the past, present, and future at a distance is mirrored bin the colonial world around her where British subjects try to create an English landscape overtop of the locations they seek to control, building “home” in other territories where they are forever reminded that these places are not home and any sense of home is fiction maintained by harsh regulation, segregation, secrecy, and violence.

Set in the early 1900s, Kernaghan creates a novel of secrecy, espionage, violent resistance, and the exercise of power (both within the body through the regulation of psychic abilities, and throughout India through British governmental control).

To discover more about Sophie, In Shadow, visit Thistledown Press’ website at http://www.thistledownpress.com/html/search/genre/Young_Adult_Fiction/sophie_in_shadow_p586.cfm

To read more works by Eileen Kernaghan, visit her website at http://www.eileenkernaghan.ca/ .

Speculating Canada on Trent Radio Episode 4: An Interview with Kate Story

Local Peterborough author and native Newfoundlander Kate Story was able to visit Speculating Canada on Trent Radio to talk about Newfoundland’s fairy tale tradition and how she incorporated it into her novel Blasted as well as exploring her own experiences as a Newfoundlander growing up surrounded by these tales and traditions. In this episode of Speculating Canada on Trent Radio, Kate discusses the relationship between place and notions of home in Canadian literature, the interaction of people with their landscape, and the interplay between rural and urban spaces in her novels. As a performance artist, she was able to also comment on the wider arts community and her engagement with multiple artistic media.

Click on the icon below to hear the full radio programme.

 

Explore Trent Radio at www.trentradio.ca

Explore Trent Radio at http://www.trentradio.ca

 

This audio file was originally broadcast on Trent Radio, and I would like to thank Trent Radio for their continued support.

Make sure to allow a few minutes for the file to buffer since it may take a moment before it begins to play.

Slippery Landscapes

A review of Kate Storey’s Blasted (Killick Press, 2008).
By Derek Newman-Stille

Steeped in the rich fairy lore of Newfoundland and a sense of longing for home, Kate Story’s Blasted is a novel about dislocation. Story’s stream of consciousness style of writing beautifully enhances the sense of temporal and special dislocation represented by movement through and slippage into fairy realms. Her poetic use of language adds to the depth of the landscape, it’s history, and the people upon it, reveling in the simultaneous beauty and terror embedded in the land.

Cover photo from Kate Story's "Blasted" courtesy of http://www.katestory.com/

Cover photo from Kate Story’s “Blasted” courtesy of http://www.katestory.com/

Newfoundland, as an island landscape of harsh extremes, fog, snow, unclear edges… it is a perfect location for fairy stories and a tradition of wandering into the fairy lands and being lost. As a place that experiences a great deal of emigration – the loss of population to other locations out of the belief that there will be better economic opportunities elsewhere – it has become a place of loss, a place of inconsistencies of population, a shifting populace where people ARE lost. Story combines this narrative of loss and the feeling of diaspora, of being separated from home, among Newfoundlanders who have left the island, with the losses into the fairy landscape – a place where people disappear, where people are led and lured into another place and pulled from home.

Ruby is a character who is enmeshed in both types of loss and dislocation – economy-led to Toronto with the belief that there are better economic opportunities, and fairy-led into Fairy from a difference in her blood, a family disposition to wander into fairy. Her sense of home is disrupted, discontinuous, yet no less strong.

Ruby’s family history has been kept secret, Othering her in her own home. Fairies in Newfoundland are considered to be beings that it is best not to speak about, and suffering in Ruby’s family is believed to be increased by being discussed. But this secrecy, carried out through the belief that it will keep Ruby safe, leaves her unprepared for the realities of her family and its interactions with “Them”, the fairies, the strangers who are also intimately close – in the landscape, in her home, and within her blood.

You can discover more about Kate Story on her website at http://www.katestory.com/

To find out more about Blasted and other Killick Press books, visit their website at http://www.creativebookpublishing.ca/en/index.cfm?main=groupdescription&poid=278