Autobiography of Childhood

Sina Queyras. Coach House (Consortium, dist.), $17.95 trade paper (200p) ISBN 978-1-55245-252-3
Death has ruled over the Combal family for generations. Now Therese Combal—living in Vancouver and dying of cancer—is in her last days, and it's her family's reactions to her impending passing that are the focus of Canadian poet Queyras's first novel. Each relative has one turn on stage: sister Guddy, an academic, leaves her partner, Sara, in New York City and flies west to say goodbye. Brother Jerry, married twice and virtually forgotten, would rather not hear the news. Bjarne senses something is wrong, but his schizophrenic neuroses prevent him from engaging with reality. Even Jean, Therese's father, has a chance to muse from beyond the grave. But it's the family matriarch, Adel, who provides the narrative's tension—she is "irritating," "visceral," and "embarrassing—" and, though she has "burned all her bridges," she's the glue that holds the Combals together, at least in mutual frustration and hatred. Queyras (Expressway) has a lyrical eye ("linoleum curls like tulip leaves" and the air is "so fresh it's like biting into an apple still hanging from the tree"), but the novel's structure prevents most of the characters from confronting one another directly, resulting in an oblique portrait of scattered grief. By the time Therese takes the stage, she is pretty much alone, left to make an observation that reflects how the book's emotional core and character development feel rather empty: "flaws are only interesting when they are overcome." (May)
Reviewed on: 06/25/2012
Release date: 04/01/2012
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 200 pages - 978-1-77056-291-2
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