Of Love & Loss

04 Jan Of Love & Loss

Welcome, Wednesday. It’s a big day for the LOL. Tonight is our monthly meeting, when we will be discussing our latest novel, Annabel. New Year’s resolutions to curtail food and drink may be thwarted as the appies roll out and the wine doth pour but recent events have only served to confirm my motto: Live a lot. Not just a little. A lot. Seize this life with all your might and delight in it every moment you can.

Sadly, one of our book club members and a dear friend of mine, Laura, lost her mother on New Year’s Day. Cleone had just turned 91 on December 18th, celebrating her day with pizza and her favourite, ice-cream cake. When a common cold became complicated, she ended up in the hospital and while Laura says her mom stayed strong until the end, it was time and the New Year was ushered in with great change and great grief for my friend as she bid her mother good-bye…for now. With her permission, I share some of Laura’s thoughts on her mom. A woman of the word, Laura pays tribute beautifully:

I am blessed to have had such a strong and wise woman as my mother. She is my inspiration and I would be happy to have half of her grace, positive attitude and unassailable ability to embrace life’s hurdles. She could roll with the punches and laugh at the blows, with – I might add –  a sense of humour that would crack up even the most solemn. I was so lucky to have her for as long as I did and have enough time with her at the end to say my good byes. Loosing her will create a vast emptiness in my heart, the extent of which is too soon to fully appreciate.

Reading this you will know, clearly, Laura inherited the qualities she admired in her mom. Share a glass of wine with Laura (or read her novel-in-progress)and you will know laughter and love of life–an infectious sense of humor–are among the best of those attributes passed from mother to daughter.

And so  I have concluded the reading of Annabel with a smile on my face.  Oh, how I love a great ending, worthy of a great book. I wish I could chat endlessly about the the conclusion..there’s so much to say…but I am reluctant to spoil it for those who have yet to pick up Kathleen Winter’s book. Like many who have read it (I’m sure) I kept wondering how she would bring it around. How would she resolve Wayne’s quest for self? I won’t tell you, but in reading some of the praise for the novel, I was struck by a couple in particular. From the Ottawa Citizen:

“Annabel is less about gender divides and more about the gossamer lines that connect one to another. A book like this, its topic and beautiful language, the unrelenting sorrow, Winter’s insightful characterizations and utter sensitivity, is difficult to do justice with these few words…”

And this, from A.L. Kennedy:

“Annabel is a mature and beautifully crafted debut, full of savagely clear-eyed observation and startling compassion.”

I love that! “Savagely clear-eyed observation” and “startling compassion”. The wild scenery, the wild animals, and the wild nature of man: There are moments near the end of the novel that are completely savage and raw and frankly hard to read as you envision Wayne’s ordeal, yet there are precious interactions with people who shed such wisdom, offer sincere compassion, and act with such authentic decency, the reader is offered a sense of hope. When Wayne is experimenting with his feminine side and meets a Lancolm makeup artist who sits him down to apply cosmetics to Wayne’s face, Winter employs humor while elevating the artist to a rarely seen role of genuine goodness. Wayne decides the artist looks like actor/comedian, Robin Williams and thereafter refers to him as “Robin Williams” in his mind.

“He said this with kindness, and Wayne had a sense of the world being a place where everyone had the sorrows he had, whereas, before sitting here with Robin Williams, the world had been a place where most people coped much better than Wayne did. Wayne pictured everyone in the rain with their sorrows, which were quiet, personal sorrows of every kind, and Robin Williams had studied them all.”


“Robin Williams felt that life was something in which maybe you would cry, and he gave every woman dignity by tracing her mouth, her eyes, her skin, with kind hands.”

I could go on…There’s so much to say about this book…so many interactions, small shared events, seemingly mundane moments between people, so  poignant, so simple on the surface but which really uncovered something so much deeper about who each of them was…those passages were poetry.

I loved Robin Williams and the light he lent simply by being, by giving, by receiving, without judgment or question or condemnation. There are more such touching moments with other characters, namely Wayne’s father, Wally, & Thomasina that lent their own light and offered up hope in this novel.

…Embracing life, with all its sorrow and all its joy and all its mystery, seizing it and doing what we can with what we’ve been given.

Laura’s mom did it beautifully.Cheers!