The Heaviness of Things That FloatBook - 2016
Jennifer Manuel skilfully depicts the lonely world of Bernadette, a woman who has spent the last forty years living alone on the periphery of a remote West Coast First Nations reserve, serving as a nurse for the community. This is a place where truth and myth are deeply intertwined and stories are "like organisms all their own, life upon life, the way moss grows around poplar trunks and barnacles atop crab shells, the way golden chanterelles spring from hemlock needles. They spread in the cove with the kelp and the eelgrass, and in the rainforest with the lichen, the cedars, the swordferns. They pelt down inside raindrops, erode thick slabs of driftwood, puddle the old logging road that these days led to nowhere."
Only weeks from retirement, Bernadette finds herself unsettled, with no immediate family of her own--how does she fit into the world? Her fears are complicated by the role she has played within their community: a keeper of secrets in a place "too small for secrets." And then a shocking announcement crackles over the VHF radio of the remote medical outpost: Chase Charlie, the young man that Bernadette loves like a son, is missing. The community is thrown into upheaval, and with the surface broken, raw dysfunction, pain and truths float to the light.
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Nan Lily straightened her sweater and clasped her hands on her lap. "What does it matter if you know who she is?"
"It just feels like people should know who she was."
"But what does it matter if YOU know?"
"Maybe I'll understand things better."
"Like what?" Nan Lily asked.
"I don't know. Life."
"Because you think her story is your story."
I stared at Nan Lily.
"It is good that you try to know her," she said. "Because then you might know some of her truths."
"But you cannot know her. Not fully," she said. "And it is dangerous to ever think you can. Because then you will mistake your own truths for hers."
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