Sunday, December 4, 2011

BOOK: Tide Road by Valerie Compton

Tide Road by Valerie Compton, 230 pages

Canadian Book Challenge


He came through the door like a thunderclap, like a breeze. Hey! he yelled. Or, Hey, he said. He let the door slam. He eased it shut. 
Which way had it gone? She couldn't be sure.page9

The opening lines of this novel set on Prince Edward Island drew me into the story immediately. How do we remember things? Sonia struggles with the grief of her missing daughter, Stella all the way to the beginning of her missing - does she even remember that correctly? Stella goes missing (presumed drowned) in the winter of 1965, which sends Sonia reeling back in memories to 1941, the summer she worked alone at the lighthouse on Surplus Island. Sonia needs to come to terms with her life and the choices she made (or had made for her) before she can really deal with Stella's disappearance.

Part of the appeal to me is obviously the location. When Compton mentions places or things, they have a meaning for me living on Prince Edward Island. I remember Roger's Hardware, the Rollaway lounge; the road between Winsloe and Rustico is the road I lived when we were first married. The descriptions of the shore and the water continue the tradition of LM Montgomery and the connection to nature here on this island. The writing is poetic and wispy and full of images.This connects even more to the characters, as Sonia could be/was an artist, and Stella has vision issues.

There is a bit of a mystery as to what actually happened to Stella. Suspicion falls on Stella's husband, adding an extra layer to the family's grief and anger. Sonia's denial about this aspect of Stella's life make her believe that Stella has just run away and Sonia puts her energy into finding Stella instead of dealing with her grief.

The strength of the book is in the character of Sonia who was very real, a woman from the middle of the 1900s, with very few choices. She struggled to get by with a husband who was abusive, with children that kept coming, the hard, violent life on a farm, striving to discover her voice. The book and her grief are about her struggle to realize she even had a voice, a vision for herself.

Grief and memory are two common themes in literature. Two other books I read this year (that I never reviewed) also tackled these themes. February by Lisa Moore was also about grief, after the Ocean Ranger disaster in Newfoundland.  The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes was an old man remembering events from his past and his role in them. Tide Road was a blend of the best of both books. Sonia was dealing with her grief by looking to the past to make sense of her daughter's life. "You still have to solve your own life if you want to be of any help to [your children]" (from p 190) seems to be the advice that starts Sonia on her way.

I hope more people can discover this wonderful book.

4 comments:

Susan Bennett said...

I actually found the opening quite jarring.

raidergirl3 said...

my friend amy said:
This sounds like a really interesting book! I have never heard of it, but I like that you say it's a combination of the best of two books you've already read this year (which I also haven't read) Also the setting seems fabulous and important to the book.

Kailana said...

Oh, this sounds good. I will add it to my TBR list.

Gavin said...

This sounds wonderful, I will have to find a copy somewhere. The things I remember most about visiting PEI are the long bridge, the vast ocean and the red soil.