What Sarah's Reading: WILDWOOD by Elinor Florence
I told myself that this would be the summer where I stopped binge-watching terrible television shows and started working my way through the big stack of unread books in my living room.
I used to consider myself an avid reader. I remember telling my mum that reading was my hobby (she told me that reading couldn't be a hobby, but that's beside the point). In the summer, I'd spend long, long hours in the Edmonton Public Library before checking out almost more books than I could carry (but never more books than I could read).
So, I decided this summer would be the summer of actually reading again.
I started with Wildwood by Elinor Florence. I don't know what I was expecting from Wildwood, but I definitely didn't think that I would cruise through the novel in two days. I couldn't get enough of Molly and her adventure in Northern Alberta. Part of what drew me to the book was a desire to get back to my roots, and if you're from Alberta (or Saskatchewan or Manitoba) you will definitely feel the prairies pulling you back through these pages. I never thought I'd miss snow and the harsh Alberta winter until reading about the experience through a character like Molly's eyes. What stuck with me was Florence's description of sound--she describes the squeak of dry, packed snow underfoot and the soft hush of flakes falling and it made me crave a crisp snowfall like nobody's business.
And the story is fantastic. Molly and her daughter move from Arizona to Northern Alberta to live on Molly's great-aunt's farm, in the original homestead without electricity or plumbing. Molly is to live on the property for one year before she inherits it. She relives her aunt's struggle as a pioneer through a diary she found, and the narrative parallels Molly's hardships with her great-aunt's. Normally, when I read a book that has diary entries I tend to skim over the italicized paragraphs to get back to the "real" story. This wasn't the case here. I wanted more of her great-aunt's story! Both storylines were equally compelling, and never drew away from the other--instead, they worked together to make each story more rich and engaging.
This novel tackles social issues, like the generational trauma of residential schools, sexism, racism, and classism, putting these issues up front and centre in her characters' lives. The novel also takes a look at motherhood and child-rearing in a world that's a bit scary. Molly keeps a close eye on her daughter (too close, some might say) and it was a pleasure to read the way that as Molly became more comfortable living up North, she seemed to become more comfortable letting go of her strict self-imposed rules of motherhood. Florence keeps her characters on their toes, and every thread she weaves into her story is careful and purposeful. There are no dropped storylines or half-thought out descriptions--Florence doesn't let her reader down.
The narrative is at times predictable, but I didn't mind--I just wanted to spend time in this story. And it was comfortable that the sign posts Florence dropped for her reader led towards something I expected, instead of taking a twist and taking the legs out from under her well-crafted story.
This book reminded me of the novels I enjoyed reading when I was a teen--the kind that I would steal from my mother's stack of library books once I'd cruised through my own. It has everything you want from a summer read, including ~*~romance~*~, and everything you need to make you miss home.