Book Review: February by Lisa Moore
by Lisa Moore
House of Anansi Press Inc, 2010
I don’t want to give a negative review to a book about the 1982 Ocean Ranger disaster. I don’t want to appear insensitive to the people affected by that tragic event. The families and friends of those lost have my sympathies.
But I really didn’t like this book.
Lisa Moore writes beautifully descriptive passages. She writes beautifully descriptive passages about scattered, disconnected and, frankly, not very interesting events. Finishing this book was a chore, and I only did so because I had to give a full report to my book club. I procrastinated about picking it up again every time I put it down. I groaned when I finally succumbed to the need to plough through it. I impatiently skimmed through the tangential ramblings of the narrator.
The main character, Helen, loses her husband in the Ocean Ranger disaster. She has three children at home and a fourth on the way. Understandably, she’s shell-shocked, and this book is the story of how she picks up the pieces of her shattered life.
The theme resonated with other members of my book club—a single mother and a widow—who felt that Moore had done an admirable job of capturing the emotional journey of people suddenly left to cope on their own. I agree, but Moore captures it, perhaps, too well. Passages rife with non sequiturs and leaps between topics effectively represent the scattered thinking of someone in shock, and I would have liked that approach, if Moore had used it only for the parts of the book that take place immediately after the disaster. But Moore uses this style through the whole book, and it’s tiresome.
Moore is so busy describing random events and the characters’ inconsequential encounters with strangers (that do nothing to advance the story) that she leaves unfinished the story lines we readers are hungry for. We get a lengthy passage on dolphin training, but we don’t know what happened to Gabrielle, the baby born in the womb at the time of her father’s death. We get an entire short chapter on how Helen and her husband were once on opposite sides of a tug of war, but we’re left hungry for more details on the intriguing story line of her son’s job skirting safety regulations for oil companies.
The whole book was haphazard and exasperating. Too many self-indulgent descriptions of details that don’t advance the story. Too many leaps between topics within the same passage. Too many leaps back and forth and all around in time.
Oh, and I’m going to send Lisa Moore some quotation marks for Christmas.