Sunday, August 14, 2011

Mini Review: What is Left the Daughter by Howard Norman

What Is Left the Daughter

Not much time for writing my usual long reviews because I've been caring a lot for my grandma on the weekends, so this is kind of a mini review with a summary and quick review.

Howard Norman's What is Left the Daughter takes place during World War II in Canada.  Wyatt's parents have just commited suicide.  Same day, different locations.  He goes to live with his aunt, uncle, and their adopted daughter Tilda.  There in a small town named Middle Economy, he meets a young German student who will end up changing Wyatt's life for forever.  This is a really moving book with a fantastic setting.

I love all things U-boats.  It's a weird obsession, but it is what it is.  So I adored all the U-boat aspects of this book.  During WWII, their were U-boats (German submarines) right off the east coast of Canada and the USA, and this book pretty much revolves around that. 

Wyatt is a great narrator.  He is awkward and stupid at times, and at others he is very vulnerable.  I can't say I liked his character, but I was able to simpathize with him, even after he makes some really awful decisions. 

The setting of the book, to me, was awesome.  I live right on the border of Canada and the USA and I loved reading a book set in Canada.  I also adored all the references to my city, Buffalo.  What's better is that my grandmothers both remember the exact radio show that was broadcast out of Buffalo and mentioned numerous times in this book.  I thought Norman did a really great job of setting the scene of small town Canada during the war.  His writing is really good and descriptive.

Honestly, while I was reading this book, I just liked it.  I was enjoying it a lot, but I didn't really know what to think through most of it.  After I finished it, though, I realized just how awesome it is.  I thought this would be one of those books that you read and then forget about.  Instead, I found myself thinking back on this book and it's story and characters weeks after I'd finished it.  I'm still a bit "haunted" by certain parts of it, and it's things like this that make a book really great in my opinion.  I definitely recommend you read What is Left the Daughter.  It might seem slow at times, but it's a very powerful story.

Some favorite quotes (which there were a lot of.  I've tried narrowing it down!):
Page 72: At one point, not looking up from the sweater she was folding, she said, "Donald's moved to the shed.  Outwardly, I'm trying to be poised about it."
Page 75: "It's a work of art, your packing," I said.
"I've left a little extra room," she said.  "One should always leave a little room for a new purchase.  I don't count on making a new purchase, but just in case."
Page 81: "Don't sell yourself short," she said.  "The way I see it?  A poem reaches out exactly halfway, then you reach out halfway, then see what happens."
"Provisional, eh?"
"I only mean if you're thinking willful and generous toward a poem, the poem'll be equally those things back.  As for meaning, it'll mean something different to each person.  That's all you have to know."
Page 202 (I threw in the Buffalo line following this quote because I wanted to.): Life went along, Marlais.  Life just goes along.  I'm never late for work.  Never late, that's one thing.  The other is that every Sunday I listen to the Cavalcade of Radio programs.  I tune it in from Buffalo.

Title: What is Left the Daughter
Author: Howard Norman
Date of Publication: 2010
Number of Pages: 264
Genre: Fiction
Source: Personal Copy

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