When you read a first novel like this one, you just think wow Jennifer Manuel has a real gift for description, for characters, and for unveiling an interesting story one layer at a time Being Canadian, I was naturally interested in her portrayal of our indigenous people, which was very well done All her characters were genuine individuals, with a range of human talents and failings The only thing I questioned, and not enough to reduce my five star rating, was why Bernadette chose that life for herself Her isolation and loneliness seemed almost unbearable Hopefully when my book club discusses this it will become clear to me. Although this isn t a perfect book what book is , it s a book well worth reading It s moving, and does a good job of exploring the fault lines between cultures The main character is complicated and difficult and, most importantly, interesting Although at times the author doesn t seem to trust her ability to tell this story, and over explains, where a lighter touch might have been effective, for a first novel is far accomplished than most The relationship between whites and Indigenous people is often fraught, and who gets to tell the story is debatable Manuel bravely walks into the fray and, as someone who has lived in Indigenous communities for decades, she is qualified than most white people I m of mixed Indigenous European heritage and I don t feel comfortable tackling it Here, her focus is on what blind spots non Indigenous people have, how and why humans delude themselves It s thought provoking, and an important part of the conversation on reconciliation in Canada.I hope people will read this book I hope they will talk about how they respond to it. 3.5 stars really The second from my 20BooksofSummer list A very strong opening, and a strong and emotional ending, it was the middle that I had a few struggles with repetitiveness or maybe the same story spinning around, not moving forward I did really enjoy, there were many beautiful and poignant moments inside Heartfelt and perhaps a melancholic ending meant a very good ending to Bernadette s story I d recommend for those seeking good Canadian literature. Simply put, this is one of the best books I ve ever read Perhaps it resonated than it might have at some earlier stage in my life because I ve lived on the west coast of Vancouver Island for nine years now, and I read the book on little San Rafael Island overlooking Yuquot on Nootka Island, where only one family remains It s certainly the first time I ve seen the handful of words we use here chumiss, klecko, chuu, kakawin, puui in print I ve flown over the island named Toomista in the book and wondered why those houses behind the sandy beach sat empty.Jennifer Manuel does not set a foot wrong We are quickly inside the mind and thoughts of Bernadette, her main character, our narrator While there s no doubt that she s firmly entrenched as part of the community after 40 years in residence as the outpost nurse, prickles of doubt arise as to whether we can trust her interpretation of her place within the community I cringed a little at her certainty that those four decades and the knowledge and intimacies involved in being their nurse made her part of this extended First Nations family And sure enough, as her time on the Tawakin Reserve is coming to an end, self doubt and confrontation forces her to question her real place amongst the people she has spent her adult life with While dealing with this inner turmoil the young man she is closest to suddenly disappears, his fishing boat left in a protected anchorage This mystery drives the book as Bernadette conducts her own searches, seeks out the man s mother, living apart from and estranged from the community, and continues to sift through her memories of the past looking for clues and explanations and understanding While we begin at the end of Bernadette s 40 years on Tawakin, the arc of her time there is revealed through her memories Most are positive but there has been heartbreak, betrayal and tragedy as well She has earned her position of trust, her friendships but, perhaps because of her proximity, she is blinkered, unable or unwilling to see that there are two solitudes and that she will always be part of the one not resident on the reserve The two can overlap, embrace even, but they will not be one anytime soon This may be Bernie s flaw but it s an understandable one and she is a good person, a narrator you re happy to spend time with, and within, for almost 300 pages And, as with any good mystery, we are free to question her perspective, to come up with our own theories, until all, or at least most, is revealed at the end.The writing is so strong that The Heaviness of Things That Float has the best qualities of documentary, as if a skilled memoirist had written of her time in this place, to the point that Tawakin becomes real and you re tempted to get on the Uchuck, or the Pacific Sojourn, and visit and see if Patty and Hannah are doing better, if Nan Lily is still alive But, of course, they are not there This is fiction done so well that we think it s true, and it has the drama, the confrontations and tensions, the conflicts in need of resolution, that mark the best fiction And the characters Bernie, at retirement, wondering whether this was a life well lived, Chase, the son she never had, Miranda, his mother, mad with grief or, possibly, just mad, Frank, Bernie s one time love and, yes, Chase s father yes, it s complicated, as they say Deliciously so Let the rain, or, this winter, perhaps the snow, fall, let the fog roll in if it desires, let the clouds creep down the mountains, and reflect on the ocean s surface until all the world is grey with a smudge of green forest and throw another log on the fire, a blanket on your knees, and spend your day with this book That you will know about our First Nations at the end of it is a bonus That you will experience the emotional highs and lows, the pleasures, that only a good book can give you, is guaranteed. This book moved me on so many levels First, there is well crafted story about Bernadette a nurse, retiring after 40 yrs at a remote outpost near a reserve She has been friend, enemy, confidant and keeper of clan secrets through her medical records She is about to return to a mainland life where there is no family or friends left to her She will give up the people she has loved and adopted as family A young nurse, Wren, arrives to replace her Wren is beautifully drawn as a complex, caring nurse We,the readers don t know whether to love or fear here and so the plot and tension build Then there is the disappearance of Chase Charlie, a boy Bernadette partially raised and loves like a son He goes missing She tries to find him and unravel the mysteries round him, some Stories true, some complicated legends.I realized as I mulled over this book that the author dealt with the issues of suicides and poor living conditions on the reserve in an organic way by writing it into her story It made the loss and hurt so real It opens the eyes much wider than just the statistics which we see all the time. The author s knowledge and experience of life on a First Nations reserve on the West Coast live in this book It is the story of a poignant and painful realization of Bernadette, a nurse on the reserve, as she is about to retire after 40 years living in the community The disappearance of Chase Charlie, the young man who Bernadette has loved as a son throws her and the community into upheaval Particularly the last chapters as the story moves to the climax are gripping and immersive This book is honest and beautiful and it hurts. Jennifer Manuel Skilfully Depicts The Lonely World Of Bernadette, A Woman Who Has Spent The Last Forty Years Living Alone On The Periphery Of A Remote West Coast First Nations Reserve, Serving As A Nurse For The Community This Is A Place Where Truth And Myth Are Deeply Intertwined And Stories Are Like Organisms All Their Own, Life Upon Life, The Way Moss Grows Around Poplar Trunks And Barnacles Atop Crab Shells, The Way Golden Chanterelles Spring From Hemlock Needles They Spread In The Cove With The Kelp And The Eelgrass, And In The Rainforest With The Lichen, The Cedars, The Swordferns They Pelt Down Inside Raindrops, Erode Thick Slabs Of Driftwood, Puddle The Old Logging Road That These Days Led To Nowhere Only Weeks From Retirement, Bernadette Finds Herself Unsettled, With No Immediate Family Of Her Own How Does She Fit Into The World Her Fears Are Complicated By The Role She Has Played Within Their Community A Keeper Of Secrets In A Place Too Small For Secrets And Then A Shocking Announcement Crackles Over The VHF Radio Of The Remote Medical Outpost Chase Charlie, The Young Man That Bernadette Loves Like A Son, Is Missing The Community Is Thrown Into Upheaval, And With The Surface Broken, Raw Dysfunction, Pain And Truths Float To The Light You have to turn in a circle many times to get the truth, picking up just a little each time, taking it indigesting it p47In such a circuitous fashion, JM weaves a story around the complications of displacement and belonging the exclusive nature of community and the crucial role of tradition Fearless in her excavations, based on her own experiences as a white service provider in a remote native community, she asks if it is possible to overcome the cultural divide and find true communion on the other side.Note on rating even though I had some issues with some of the events and personalities, and the sense of gloomy detachment, I bumped this up because I am still thinking about it This book drew me in immediately The author is able to paint such a vivid picture of the northern Canadian setting and the people in her story that when putting the book down I often felt like I had to take a second to leave the story and return to real life It didn t feel like there was one particular force driving the plot, it felt like we readers had the opportunity to learn about and sit in on this community, and I was captivated the whole time. I picked this up at a small little bookstore during a visit Whistler last year My only complaint is this why did I wait so long to read it Touching Beautifully written Engaging characters Suspenseful I had to intentionally slow my reading down so as not to miss the beautiful prose Intimate I look forward to seeing what she writes next and if when that happens I hope it ll be readily available in the U.S than this book appears to be.
Is a well-known author, some of his books are a fascination for readers like in the The Heaviness of Things That Float book, this is one of the most wanted Jennifer Manuel author readers around the world.
- 288 pages
- The Heaviness of Things That Float
- Jennifer Manuel
- 22 July 2018 Jennifer Manuel