Wednesday 12 September 2018

The Possible World by Liese O'Halloran Schwarz

Shortlisted for Book of the Month
A #DDRevs Diamond Read
Canadian Cover


Family Drama
20th Century
Rhode Island

I’m not sure what I expected when I started this novel. It sounded interesting from the synopsis but that told so little of what I was to find here.

It is three separate stories that intertwine, that of Ben (who also calls himself Leo), Lucy and Clare, and only Lucy and Ben appear to have any connection. Ben, a six-year-old, comes across Lucy in her professional capacity as a trauma doctor at the local hospital in Providence, Rhode Island. Clare, meanwhile, is in very advanced years in a care home and there seems no way she can possibly share anything with or have any connection to either of the others. And yet it gradually becomes clear how these three people of different ages and backgrounds have a common thread. Sweeping through the twentieth century from the Great Depression through the Vietnam war, this novel strikes beyond the narrow lives of a town in America's smallest state.

These three stories are each in their own way tragic but they cover different levels of tragedy, from the more mundane, more everyday tragedy of divorce, to acts of God and war which are no more in the open or revealed than the internal pain of being separated from a loved one.

Through tragedy there is acknowledgement of loss, and telling the story of those who can no longer speak for themselves are all at the heart of this novel. If no one knows your name, do you still exist? is a central theme. If no one knows of the tragedy, did it occur?

A more positive and happier message comes through these tales, and that is that families are not always those that we are born to, that a family can be close and loving and yet the parent and the child do not belong by blood, but by choice. Traditional families in this novel don't work, and yet those that form through accident or circumstance fare far better and are a confirmation of love.

Few books of any kind make me cry these days, I read too much, too analytically, but by the end of this novel I was weeping. From the opening touching scene of a shy boy at a kid’s party, to the end, the detail of the description makes these characters so very vivid that you care enough for each of them that it brings you to tears when it ends.

© Nicky Galliers


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