In 1943, Gloria fell in love with a girl.
In 1981, her niece Sally and some other high school kids were driving on frozen Mistik Lake and it went through the ice. Sally was the only survivor.
In 2000, Sally runs off with an icelandic filmmaker, and her oldest daughter Odella has to pick up the pieces. The secrets and lost loves of the past reverberate through the story, but this is really Odella’s story – as she falls apart, picks herself up, falls in love.
As I was reading this one, I kept thinking back to the cover of the other Brooks novel I’ve read, True Confessions of a Heartless Girl. The girl on the cover has such character – plain and fierce and unapologetic. Odella is very different from Noreen, but there’s something reminiscent in the fierce and plain tone of the story. The characters are beautifully, subtly delineated; I especially liked how even though Odella’s sisters are relatively minor characters, they definitely feel eight years old and thirteen years old, not like generic children. It’s the kind of book where relatively little happens, but what does happen slowly builds in meaning and associations over the course of the story.
Yet I was a little disappointed by the denouement – for all that it had been building up to Something Big, it didn’t feel to me as if all the ends got tied up as they should be.
I did love all the little details of life, a life that is firmly situated in Winnipeg and in the tiny lake town of Mistik Lake. Like making macaroni and cheese from the box, with the powdered cheese, but you have to use real butter and 2% milk (not skim!).