I began with WANDA, the most recent and captivating book by Barbara Lambert, that Eva Stachniak (The Chosen Maiden) says “… dives deep into the past to explore a world maimed by war and blessed with art.” It’s not only about the early years of WWII when Canadians of varied origins were suspect in their loyalties, but mostly it’s about impact of prejudice on isolated and lonely young girls.
I have read most of Barbara’s fascinating work as well as Shaena’s stirring collection of short stories, Oh, My Darling, published in 2013. Her novels are new to me, so I chose to start with Radiance, her 2007 much acclaimed debut work before taking on her most recent book, PETRA.
Yesterday I finished Radiance and last night I dreamt I napalmed my neighbours, feeling righteous and wholly justified because these fictional mortals were noisy and annoying. Obviously, this book had a profound impact on my psyche not only because of Shaena’s compelling writing style and character portrayals, but also the haunting subject. It’s about an unforgivable and insane time in world history and the generational impact on a nation and it’s people by the event that brought WWII to an end. Such an horrific end, that the entire world should have fallen to its knees and wailed, howled at their gods, how could you let this happen?
Shaena’s depictions of an enigmatic young, Japanese woman and her relationships with the complex and self-serving characters that surround her in 1950’s America are powerful. An orphaned Hiroshima survivor, Keiko’s disfiguration becomes a weapon in itself, manipulated by a charitable group advocating the ban of the hydrogen bomb, a weapon three hundred times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on the mostly civilian population of Hiroshima.
A provocative read. Dynamic yet beautifully flawed characters. Closure, purposefully withheld.
On now to PETRA … perhaps when the dreams subside!