Jan 29, 2012

Every Time We Say Goodbye

Every Time We Say Goodbye (CAN, JP, US)

Written by: Jamie Zeppa

Date of Publication: 2011

Publisher: Knopf Canada

Have you ever read a book that just gets under your skin? The kind of book that keeps your mind racing at night, as you think about everything you read, so much to take in and process. After I read The Hunger Games trilogy I needed weeks to decompress. But I can't go weeks without reading.

When I read a book like this I have to turn to a book that is completely different so my thoughts don't impede on my reading material. Usually this means my guilty pleasure, time travel novels.

This time it was Sora and the Cloud that permeated my brain - I know, a picture book! So I decided to go for something I thought would be completely opposite, a Canadian novel about a suburban family.

I thought this would be a light read. I should have stuck with time travel!

I should have known what I was getting into. The first book I read by Jamie Zeppa, her memoir Beyond the Sky and Earth, was what I thought a light read about a teacher in Asia. But it was so much more, a peek into a country foreigners rarely visit, hard truths about oneself and a priviledged upbringing by Bhutanese standards, and a look into an international marriage. I've thought about it often in the decade since I've read it, as I too try to navigate an international marriage. There was so much food for thought in her memoir.

Zeppa's first novel is like Wild Swans for Ontario. A sweeping generational tale, she draws characters so real you'll check up on your Facebook acquaintances to see if they have somehow met her and inspired her.

Everytime We Say Goodbye follows the secrets of the Turner family through 3 generations, from before WW2 to the early 70s. The family centres around hard-working Frank and his harsh wife Vera, the grandparents who were desperate for children but ended up raising everyone else's.

There are no perfect characters in this novel- everyone is battling some sort of demon, whether their own failures or those that others created for them. There are, however, second chances of sorts, not the kind others give to you but the kind you make for yourself. The situations these characters find themselves in are bleak, from a child overdosing on hash brownies to a number of unplanned pregnancies and beyond. But they all have hope that things will get better, whether that's by getting involved with the wrong people or abandoning your own children, their choices are driven by hope.

Teenaged Dawn tries to figure out how people fit in her life. Heartbreakingly, she seems to only have two categories, going or gone. The 70s setting seems to fit really well with this- we seem to be able to keep some people who would probably be gone in the going category thanks to technology. I don't know if that is good or bad.

Zeppa's novel is engaging, and like her memoir, will keep me pondering family, the difference between going and gone, and the role of secrets in a judgmental society for a long time.

When I signed up for the 5th Canadian Book Challenge, this was the kind of book I was hoping to read. A novel of experiences of Canadians, the kind that reminds me of my grandparents canning and going down to creeks in the summer and getting all muddy even in my Sunday best. So glad I had the chance to read this one.

This is the 23rd book I read for the 5th Canadian Book Challenge.

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