- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Grove Press, Black Cat (February 2, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0802170706
- ASIN: B004KAB5DC
- Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 52 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,604,986 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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From Publishers Weekly
The story of the man who never comes back from sea has been embedded in the lore of eastern Canada. Moore's third work of fiction (after Alligator) imagines the impact one such disaster—the 1982 sinking of the Ocean Ranger—has on Helen O'Mara, a mother of three small children whose husband, Cal, dies at sea. The narrative jumps in time from Helen's life with Cal, the accident itself and the years after in which Helen tries to keep her life intact. Whether it is Helen longing for companionship, designing wedding dresses or learning yoga, everything she does is done with a view to Cal. Most scenes are quietly reflective, and Moore's strength is her ability to inject evocative images and expressive tones to otherwise static and overly earnest passages (as in Is this what a life is? Someone, in the middle of cleaning the bathroom, remembers you tasting the ocean on your fingers long after you're gone.) There's no plot—the narrative consists of fragments from Helen's life—and while some readers may find the patchwork engaging, the absence of a through-line makes the work meandering. (Feb.)
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In February 1982, the Ocean Ranger, the world’s largest submersible oil drilling rig, capsized in a fierce storm off the coast of Newfoundland. Eighty-four men perished. In Moore’s accomplished novel about the risks of love, Helen O’Mara is left behind with three small children and another on the way when Cal, her husband of 10 years, dies. The narrative shifts back and forth through time, tossing up scenes from the present as well as from Helen and Cal’s marriage, the day of the disaster, and the years of Helen raising her family alone. In the present, much of the focus is on son John, an engineer whose job (ironically, analyzing risk on oil rigs) takes him all over the world. Now he is on his way home and trying to come to terms with the fact that a woman he barely knows is carrying his child. The novel’s episodic nature somewhat diminishes its emotional impact, especially toward the end. But Moore, whose previous novel, Alligator (2006), won a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, renders sensations with the precision of a Vermeer. --Mary Ellen Quinn
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I found it to be an immensely human and moving account of one family; one woman's journey back to life after losing her husband to the Ocean Ranger disaster (sinking of an oil rig off Newfoundland).
I found the style of the novel to be intriguing; the character's thoughts, sometimes disjointed and rambling and spanning different periods of time, very effectively put me into the middle of their lives, their choices, and their pain, in a way that more traditional prose could not. I lived and breathed this story and found it hard to put down. The interspersing of bits of rote activities into the narrative, such as yoga, making dinner, sewing, gave a realism to the story, and as a result, stirred my empathy and connected me to the characters.
So far this is my favourite of this year's Canada Reads choices; and I am thrilled to be introduced to a new author (new to me) that I will continue to follow.
The side of me that loves non-fiction was looking for some more detail on the Ocean Ranger disaster, but I can continue that on the side. This book was about the human impact in miniature; how one family was impacted/torn apart, and how they painfully put themselves back together, so much as was possible.
Set in Newfoundland, the story of Helen and Cal shifts in time. The novel flashes back to their courtship and marriage, shifts to the moment when Helen learns that she has lost her husband, moves forward to her current life as a widow in her mid-fifties. Woven into this is a minor thread: the relationship of Helen's adult son John and Jane, a woman he meets while traveling. The novel is constructed as a series of cameos: Helen and Cal on their honeymoon; Helen listening to her father-in-law describe his identification of Cal's body; Helen being stood up in a bar as she waits for someone she has met through an online dating service. Her life is mundane, but her thoughts are not. Ceaselessly, she retraces the mechanics (which were actually detailed in a government report) of the sinking of the Ocean Ranger: was Cal asleep when it happened? was he playing cards? was he thinking of Helen and his four children? when did he know he was going to die?
While this is a novel about grief, it is also a novel about life. Helen's kids grow up; the bank threatens to take the house; the yoga teacher instructs Helen in mindfulness. The philosophical bent of the novel moves it far away from the genre of commercial women's fiction. It is a novel for anyone who has ever muddled through sorrow, and it well deserves its place on the 2010 Man Booker long list.