Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Very Marrow of Our Bones

The Very Marrow of Our Bones by Christine Higdon
ECW Press: 4/3/18
eBook review copy; 440 pages
paperback ISBN-13: 9781770414167

The Very Marrow of Our Bones by Christine Higdon is a very highly recommended debut novel which follows five decades in the lives of two women and a  mystery.
"Sometimes pain brings people together, helps them to cross the grand abyss of human discord. The lost are found. Sons reach out to fathers after years of silence. Sisters forgive brothers. Sometimes it’s too late."

One November night in 1967 two women disappear from Fraser Arm, a small town on the Fraser River near Vancouver. Bette Parsons and neighbor Alice McFee disappear, seemingly without a trace.  Bette left behind her husband and five children. Her youngest and only daughter, ten-year-old Lulu, found the brief note her mother left and, telling no one, hid it. This event marked the beginning of Lulu's secrets and disengagement from her family. Forty years later when talking to her brother, Lulu tells him of the secret note and he says he had secrets of his own about their mother, but dies before he can share them.

Doris Tenpenny, the mute pastor's daughter and egg seller, is a confidant to many in the community, but even she has heard no secrets about the two missing women. She does know secrets about Aloysius McFee, husband to the missing Alice, however, and knows to never trust him. When she sees young Lulu meeting him, she knows it means trouble, but she tells no one about what she sees. Doris is an alert and discerning witness to the lives and secrets around her. Both women become connected through a shared inheritance, as well as unspoken secrets. 

The Very Marrow of Our Bones  is a wonderful, well-written, and perceptive novel that follows the lives of these two very different women for over five decades. I enjoyed this novel from beginning to end. As the story switches back and forth between Lulu's first-person account and Doris' third-person narrative, it is in turns humorous, heartbreaking, maddening, revealing, and hopeful. Much of the pleasure in this fine novel is found in following the path that each of their lives traversed while heading toward the conclusion. It is an immersive reading experience.

Both of the characters are admirably well-developed and clearly written as very different individuals. Even if the chapters didn't tell you who was talking you will know because Lulu and Doris have distinct voices, emotions, and characteristics. Although the mystery of the disappearing women is always present, it really is also in the back ground, there but pursued, for most of the story. The novel really focuses on the myriad of different results that are direct consequences of secrets and actions.
I did have to think about the ending for a bit before writing this review and decided that it was a fitting resolution to the novel.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of ECW Press.

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