December 3, 2021
  • December 3, 2021

Book Reviews: Teen Tale Navigates Survivor Guilt

By on April 21, 2018 0

Bill Robertson reviews Beverly Brenna’s latest young adult novel, Fox Magic, Marlis Wesseler’s new novel, The Last Chance Ladies’ Book Club, and Sleuth: Gail Bowen on Writing Mysteries

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In Beverly Brenna’s latest young adult novel, Fox Magic (Red Deer Press, $ 11.95), the lives of three young teenage girls in a small town in Saskatchewan had become “just a double day in a long straight. of days, standing like dominoes, waiting until one of them falls and knocks the others over. This is why the sun hesitates on the horizon – who wants to enter on this day? So, without much life experience, they “came to the conclusion that life in this city is impossible”.

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They make a suicide pact, gather in the forest in their best clothes, eat their favorite snacks, then Chance, the protagonist of this story and with a name meaning metaphor, bolts and races. The other two girls go ahead with their conception and Chance is the survivor. She spends the first part of this short novel calling herself a hen, convinced that she does not deserve to live. His friends had the courage to go all the way; why not her?

And there is a lot of motivation. Her parents had recently separated and are now reunited – on a razor’s edge – for her sake. And there is no shortage of encouragement at school, with verbal threats in the hallway and bullying notes stuffed daily in his office. She doesn’t want to eat, go to school, or see her counselor. No kidding.

With the help of a dad doing the best he can and the solid encouragement of a fox she meets – with a name too good to spoil here – Chance works to believe in herself again. Brenna, who has a lot of experience with young protagonists who can use all the help she can get, finds believable ways to reintegrate Chance into her own life and, most importantly, to show her that being a young teenager is difficult for everyone. world. , not just those who think they got a bad deal.

Miriam Korner’s black and white illustrations have a sinister, almost grotesque feel to them, reflecting the psychology of a self-condemned young teenager. They fit the story perfectly.

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Speaking of misfortune, Regina writer Marlis Wesseler is back on the stands with a new novel, The Last Chance Ladies’ Book Club (Signature Editions, $ 16.95). The story takes place in a nursing / nursing home called Pleasant Manor, in a small town that is relatively convenient for Prince Albert and Saskatoon. Four women, including principal Eleanor Sawchuck, read books on the nature of evil.

One of the women’s daughters gives them a book written by a woman who suffered horrific abuse at the hands of her father and then committed suicide. Now this man, considerably aged since the publication of the book, settles in the mansion. Women are beside themselves on what and how to do anything. Are the police aware? Has he ever been charged? Should they face it? Slip notes under his door? On top of that, the granddaughter of a demented woman whose mother is too sick of alcoholism to care much begins to hang around the house. Would she be a target? Talk about a discussion about the nature of evil.

Wesseler does not rush her story, observing the seasons and their flowers, calmly observing the lives of these women in the face of increasing mortality. In fact, readers might be forgiven for wondering if they have completely abandoned their local attacker. But that is really the subject of the book. From its almost insipid title to the infamously pleasant name of the house, Wesseler constructs a story in which his characters fall asleep in a state of complacency in the face of the evil next door. Yes, they should do something, but what about the eights cards? And what can they do, anyway?

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Then the child disappears. Wesseler avoids easy answers, finding both the mundane and the shocking in their small dose of evil. It is a patient examination of how ordinary people react to the evil within them.

And since we have a hard time dealing with evil, we should take a master class with Detective: Gail Bowen on Writing Mysteries (U of R Press, $ 18.95), in which Regina’s oldest detective story walks us through a few basic steps to writing said novel.

Just as some readers might hope for a magic bullet to send them to the holy grail of a great mystery, what Bowen has to say is pretty much what you’d expect from a hard-working author of 17 mysteries by Joanne Kilbourn, at the retired English teacher, wife, mother and grandmother: writing – any writing – is hard work, and here are some practical tips to help you on your way.

She gives a list of the novelist’s tools (theme, narrative perspective, etc.) and quotes a former professor who asks: “What do I hope to achieve with this writing?” She talks about writing involving three distinct processes: pre-writing, writing and editing. Yes, you sit and think, sometimes, or read, or go out and see the world. As Bowen says, none of the great encounters she’s had with other human beings – read, good material – came from being locked in her office.

She also speaks, in a valuable way, about clarifying the facts – one mistake can put a reader off – and tackling social issues such as poverty, racism, child prostitution, etc. Readers of his mysteries can testify to his commitment to these concerns. She speaks of characterization, intrigue, style, all with numerous quotes from other writers and many discoveries in her own published mysteries. That’s how I did, that’s what she says. She even provides an email address for advice on how to get published.

There are no easy answers here, but a lot of practical advice and great suggestions.

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