Donna Morrisey (Kit’s Law) over the moon

I have never met Newfoundland writer, Donna Morrissey, in person. (I’ve never been in town when she’s been here to read.) But we have exchanged e-mails and, besides being one of my favourite authors, she is plain old nice and possesses an enormous funny bone. (I vote she should perform at open mike night at Second City). When she told me she was over the moon from the Globe and Mail’s review of her new novel, I read it right away. Given it’s unequivocal recognition for her talent she must be all the way to Saturn or that blob, formerly called a planet, Pluto by now. Check it out:

Donna Morrissey writes with her heart on her sleeve. Her people are passionate, troubled, sensitive, emotionally exposed, quick to be moved to anger or pain, and just as quick to laughter and affection. As one of the characters in What They Wanted says, “you thinks with your heart.”

This is a novel of emotions, and the first vivid image of a family watching the father literally sawing their house in half before floating it out to sea gives us an inkling of the divided hearts and wounded souls we will meet…..

What They Wanted is not a plot-driven novel. The story is fairly straightforward: A father has a heart attack; a brother and sister leave Newfoundland and go to Alberta to work; they meet two young men from their childhood there and all find jobs on an oil rig; a tragedy brings reconciliation, but also terrible loss. As a tale, it sounds fairly uncomplicated. What is complex here, what is intricate and convoluted and often tortuous, are the emotions that attract, repel and ultimately bind the characters to each other.

The novel is narrated by Sylvie Now, university student of philosophy, barmaid, cook, dutiful daughter and caring sister. Her voice is compelling, revealing and utterly captivating. At the heart of Sylvie’s story is the wound she carries in her heart – of feeling herself unloved by her mother. A mother, by the way, who buried three infants before Sylvie came along, and then during an extended postpartum depression sent the small girl to live with her grandmother. It is to the next child, the boy, Chris, that the mother seems to devote all her affections. Sylvie’s antagonism toward her mother and her conflicted relationship with her brother form the emotional core of the novel…..

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