Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Spend some time at this Library

“The Ladies Lending Library” was a pleasant surprise.
Janice Kulyk Keefer’s tale of women summering at a lake is so much more than the light beach read one might think.
The women of this cottage community, Sasha, Sonia, Nadia and Zirka, gather to discuss the paperback novels they furtively pass around while their husbands are at work.
But these women are as complex as those in real life.
Their world is Kalyna Beach, Canada, circa 1963, the summer of “Cleopatra,” and the movie is almost a character in the novel. These women are a product of their times – and none too happy about it.
They chafe against what society (and their husbands! Yikes! ) tells them is accepted.
They are jealous of Nadia, not just for her wealth, but because she is not a slave to the duties that bind them.
As Zirka tells Sasha, “What matters is that you have to pay for everything you want, and that it’s better not to find yourself paying a whole lifetime for something you decided wasn’t even worth five minutes of your time.”
Their disappointments weight heavily on them and their families.
As one character says, “In spite of everything I knew, … I really believed that once you grew up, you could do whatever you wanted. That only people who were too dull or stupid or frightened to want anything better would end up working at a factory or office or in a hellhole of a kitchen all summer long.”
Keefer’s turns of phrase left me nodding my head in agreement as each of the women bumped up against her limitations, whether self- or societal-imposed.
What leaped off the page at me, however, was Sasha’s description of books:
“… what makes you fall for a book, fall as hard and fast as you could fall in love. Or about how, when you finish certain books, you feel as though you’ve been locked out of the house in which you grew up. And how you walk around as if you’re blind or lame and can’t get your bearing until you’ve found another book that will take you away to someplace you’ve never dreamed you wanted or needed to go.”
I couldn’t agree more!

This is Keefer’s fifth novel and I’ll definitely be looking for her previous four.

-Tricia Ambrose

P.S. My six-word memoir: Played the cards I was dealt.

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