Thursday, March 20, 2008

reading challenge #7

Knock on wood, but I don't often get blown over by winter bugs, but oh my did I get trampled last week. I only made it into work for one morning and I was dragging my heels the whole time. It was just some viral infection, but I barely had the energy to get off the sofa. Even sitting at the computer was unthinkable. When my eyelids weren't hurting I at least got a bit of reading done and even took a break from my Canadian list to read Belong To Me by Marisa de los Santos.

But back to the Canadian list. I think a review may have hinted at this allure, but certainly the short story title "The Day I Sat with Jesus on the Sundeck and a Wind Came Up and Blew My Kimono Open an He Saw My Breasts" gave me reason enough to try A Song for Nettie Johnson by Gloria Sawai. And I figured a collection of short stories would add variety to my reading list. Lucky for me, it was a delightful read.

All but the final three stories are set in one small Saskatchewan town and I appreciated being able to link characters and storylines. My only criticism is that the collection wasn't entirely set in this town; by suddenly changing locations and introducing new characters 3/4 way through, I felt a little cheated, like I hadn't been given notice that my time with this town was coming to an end. But it is only a small criticism because the stories that followed were compelling and complete themselves. And anyway, the very last story was the Jesus, Kimono and Breasts adventure so I sure wasn't about to abandon ship.

Whether through the voice of a teenager, mother searching for her estranged husband or a recovering alcoholic, Sawai's interest in faith is always present. However, there is not a single word that is preachy or absolute - faith is viewed through the thoughts of each character as merely a fact of their identity. Basically their identity is informed rather than formed by their religious belief. One passage that I just had to earmark was this:

"But one thing I do know. And no one can argue against this fact, whether they're Communists, Christians, Buddhists or Jews. There's no nation in the whole world, not a single solitary one, without mothers."

I think that calls for an "Amen".

And my knitting comparison: A Song for Nettie Johnson is like a 10 row-repeat lace scarf, something Louisa Harding would design. I can never memorize a lace pattern so I have to reference the row order for each repeat and I learn something new about lace each time I complete a section. Plus no repeat can stand on its' own, only the collection of repeats really creates the garment. There is just no match for lace - I am always amazed that something so pretty can be knit by hand.


John Mutford said... [Reply to comment]

It's only recently that I read the short story "The Day I Sat..." No doubt the title rocks. As for the story, I felt let down by it. Certainly I wasn't taken in enough to want to search out more by Sawai. Your review makes me second guess myself.

petite gourmand said... [Reply to comment]

Oh I hope you are feeling better now and it didn't last too long..