By Lisa Moore
Chatto & Windus – £12.99
In February, Canadian authoress Lisa Moore has written a delicate book of sensitive, self-introspection, amid the all-prevailing parameters of gut-wrenching grief. A currency with which we all, at sometime or another, unfortunately become acquainted with. Yet whilst there are varying degrees of grief, so too are there various ways of denouncing it, denying it, and invariably dealing with it. All three instances of which are in one way or another, tackled within these three hundred and seven pages.
And just as there countless ways of coping with heartbreak, there are also a number of ways of writing about it. Some write in a colour-coded format that doesn’t allow for ambiguity, whilst others write within a residue of savage silence that only allows for ambiguity.
Herein however, what Moore refers to as a ‘’virulent and ravenous past,’’ is such that an underlying literary healing simply refuses to evolve.
The book’s protagonist Helen, is so wrought, so stuck in the on-going trajectory of her tragic past, that she adamantly refuses to allow, her healing to begin. Let alone take place. Having lost her husband Cal in a 1982 oil rig disaster, Helen has since ‘’struggled to define herself and what she wanted in a man.’’
That she actually knows she still wants a man, is surely in and of itself, already a definition of sorts? A clarification all the more highlighted when she continues: ‘’It seemed important to know what was true about herself. How to put into words the tumult of pleasure her life had been; how to say she had lost something big and was left with a hole in the middle of her chest and the wind whistling though.’’
It’s not until a quarter of a century later, when our protagonist takes a late night call from her wayward son John (who has made a girl pregnant and asks his mother for advice), that Helen finally relinquishes her shackles of sadness: ‘’She straightens her rhinestone necklace and catches herself in the mirror. She touches the skin under one eye with the tip of her finger. How did this happen? Decades have passed. Centuries.’’
If nothing else, February reminds us that time waits for no one, and that it’s not particularly on our side. But from a literary perspective, it’s a tad too linear to be plausible. Life is far too complex and too beautiful and too harrowing and too confusing to be joined by numbers; which is how this book subliminally reads.