November 16, 2022
  • November 16, 2022

Book Reviews: A Heartbreaking Tale Also Offers Redemption

By on July 21, 2018 0

Bill Robertson reviews Jeanette Lynes’ second novel, The Small Things That End the World, and Sharon Butala’s new novel, Zara’s Dead

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The poet, novelist and director of the Masters of Writing program at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Jeanette Lynes, returns with a second novel, The Small Things That End the World (Coteau, $ 24.95), in which find a number of small things at work, okay, but also a few really big ones.


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Part of Lynes’ vanity in her opening is a bit of fluff on a phonograph needle that allows 14-year-old Sadie Wilder to hear the phone so she can take on a babysitting job that doesn’t give her would not have been offered otherwise. Her friend has mumps, another glitch, and a couple needs a replacement. It’s Sadie’s big breakthrough into the staunchly protesting stronghold of Toronto’s elite wealth and anti-Semitism – a place Miss Wilder would never have been allowed to.

Cover of the book The little things that end the world by Jeanette Lynes
Cover of the book The little things that end the world by Jeanette Lynes SASwp

Sadie is so enamored with the sudden money that is going to spill her way – the money that has been poured in and her friend is bragging about – that she doesn’t notice any disturbing signs: not the storm that is developing as Mr. Bannister leads her to his palace. at home, not the way this rich and powerful man drives his sports car, he shows up in front of a young babysitter described with sexually active verbs like spank, drill, jab, squirt and push. Creative writers take note.

The little things that we point out whenever something horrible happens and think about the myriad of ways a collision of events could have been avoided are one thing, and Lynes highlights the ones to come in each of his. chapters, but these are great things that really bring down young Sadie: her easily excused naivety – she’s the 14-year-old only daughter of a working single mom, the huge storm – Hurricane Hazel – who fell on Toronto in 1954, and pride, something the ancient Greeks warned us all.

Just as Sadie pats herself on the back – “The job was fine with me, I was getting more beautiful with every passing moment” – Hazel knocks in the house and floods the neighborhood. Sadie must save a baby, toddler, and dog, and when all goes wrong, she falls straight into a pit of self-recrimination so strong that it infects her remaining life.


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Her pride is passed on, ignorance partly on purpose, to her daughter and she too has to trot this innocence into a world of sharks and demons, barely escaping with her life. So, having learned very little, she continues the tradition of keeping her daughter in the dark so that she too can feel these arrows of scandalous fortune. This is an often poignant story with blessed redemption about people seeking to blame the little things for the big things that should have come out in the open. But humans are not like that. Lynes knows it.

A great thing that ended many worlds happened on May 18, 1962 when nurse Alexandra Wiwcharuk was raped and murdered on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River in Saskatoon. The murder has never been solved and to this day memorials appear in this newspaper and sometimes notice boards request more information about the killer (s) moving among us.

Cover of Zara's Dead by Sharon Butala
Cover of Zara’s Dead by Sharon Butala SASwp

Saskatchewan writer Sharon Butala – now relocated to Calgary – published a book in 2008 on the Wiwcharuk murder in which she came to some conclusions about the identity of the killer (s). She said she wasn’t trying to solve her old classmate’s case, just remembering. With the murder still unsolved, despite Wiwcharuk’s exhumation and DNA evidence gathered, Butala wrote a novel called Zara’s Dead (Coteau, $ 24.95) in which her alter ego, Fiona Lychenko, 70, realizes the near-impossible and solves the case. . Call it wish fulfillment for Butala and countless others.


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But Zara’s Dead is more than just a single stream murder case. Readers of The Walrus will know that Butala recently published an article about women 70 and over who are invisible and considered unnecessary to society. Readers of Butala’s books will know that in 2017 she published Where I Live Now about her husband’s death and how his life changed. Fiona, aside from writing a book about Zara Stanley’s death and seeing the case come to naught, also grapples with the implications of her widowhood and allegedly diminishing powers.

Things change for Fiona when someone slips a brown envelope under her door. It has a unique name and a cryptic number on it. The last thing Fiona wants is to find herself involved in Zara Stanley’s murder again, especially since she has been warned by various mysterious people who didn’t want her to ask questions. Now here’s an invitation to get back into the game. Just as she’s about to do so, her lively and happily married younger sister is struck down by a heart attack in Vancouver. At the same time, she must prepare to accompany her oldest friend, Vonnie, to a provincial reception where she receives a lifetime award. Vonnie needs an escort as she divorces her husband.

While Fiona does both amazing and stupidly dangerous things on her way to uncover the killers, she also needs to figure out what exactly was going on in her own marriage as she contemplates her friend’s collapse and what it means to grow old. in the face of his sister’s collapse. In some places, Fiona is downright mean about her own aging and that of her friend and what it does to their bodies. Gradually, however, as she does what countless police officers and Butala herself have failed to do and finds the evidence needed to bring the killers to justice, Fiona comes to a certain point. acceptance, even dizzying happiness, to be who and how old she is. Now, there is a mystery that many might need help with.



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