I’m a big fan of weird families living in a world filled with magical realism. Looking at my favourite novels, many of them have unusual families as their feature. While Canadian novels have often been dismissed as novels about farms and prairies, I’ve never found that to be the case. Gail Anderson-Dargatz’s novel, The Spawning Grounds, is a beautifully written narrative set in the Shuswap region of British Columbia. Strange and delightful, the book was enough to have me looking up at the moon as I walked the streets of Toronto and trying to find some new source of magic within it.
Family can be tricky. Whenever there is as much emotion as there can be around families, sparks are going to fly. When you’re a child, the world can be confusing and it can be hard to process the actions of the adults around you. As you grow up, you gain the context to understand your parent’s actions and then get the mixed pleasure of struggling to redefine your parents in shades of grey rather than a binary black or white.
I remember hearing a saying all the time that girls were closer to their fathers and boys were closer to their mothers. I’m not sure where the saying came from, but whether it was an old wive’s tale or it could be attributed to something Freudian, I’ve always been one of those daughters who is closer to their father, a niche which has been stifled in my reading history.
Many of the books I’ve read that feature families in them either have a father who is absent, a father who is placid, or one who is abusive. Thankfully, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti sidesteps any misgivings I may have had previously. While I went into this book gingerly, half expecting a Faulkner-esque father figure who stepped out of the pages of As I Lay Dying, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Hawley and his daughter, Loo, were able to be interesting without being simultaneously unpleasant.