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The Gallery of Lost Species: A Novel Hardcover – May 31, 2016
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
From Publishers Weekly
Berkhout, the author of five poetry collections (including Elseworlds, winner of the 2013 Archibald Lampman Award), has written a dark debut novel about family responsibilities and unmet expectations. Edith Walker is a 13-year-old girl who lives in the shadow of her older sister, Vivienne, who's pushed into beauty pageants by a mother living out her own fantasies. As both girls grow up, Vivienne rebels against the expectations of her parents and becomes a talented artist, but also becomes lost in addictions. Witnessing her sister's downward spiral and the disintegration of their dysfunctional family, Edith shifts from envying Vivienne to trying to save her and find her when she disappears. Somehow, Edith has to develop her own sense of self in the midst of it all. Edith finds work at the National Galley of Canada in Ottawa, where much of the action takes place. The novel, a love letter to its Ottawa setting, treads between sprawling national structures and the haunts of the homeless. Berkhout's secondary characters lack development, and she occasionally advances plot by having Edith behave in a way that seems inconsistent with the character the reader has come to know. Nevertheless, this quiet debut is an admirable portrait of a young woman searching for the lost and the mythic. Agents: House of Anansi. (June)\n
"The novel--one of the most deeply moving stories I have read in many years-- reminded me of Natalee Caple’s In Calamity’s Wake or Karen Hofmann’s After Alice in its gentle attention to memory and the pursuit of “unreachables,” but The Gallery of Lost Species also harkens back to Hugh MacLennan’s and Robertson Davies’s heady, art-obsessed era." - The Globe and Mail
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I really enjoyed this one. I loved that I could so clearly visualize Ottawa (guess my degree is worth something after all!) and that we are really put into Edith's head. I also liked that while this is a story about Edith learning to be her own person after growing up through some hardships and having a bit of a dysfunctional family, it was also a book about hope. And I really connected with Edith and her story and think that any 20-something year old would be able to do the same. I think part of what helped me is having lived in Ottawa for four years and being able to see all the places that Edith traveled to in the story.
I thought some of the writing at the beginning was a little dense. It wasn't until Edith was going to university and then living on her own that I really got into the swing of the story. I think part of this is because Edith never really felt like a "little girl" even though we are in her head from childhood to adulthood. Because of this, it doesn't feel like she has any childhood innocence to lose throughout the novel and is stuck at always being 20-something which made it hard to connect with her at all aspects of her life, but really easy to slip into her life once she became an adult. The other part of this is that it is such a lyrical novel that it was difficult to place the characters in a specific time period. There was very little given for time context in this one which made it difficult for me to completely grasp what was happening in the outside world that would have an affect on Edith's world.
I was hoping for more interaction with Theo and learning about some more "lost species" but I did like the metaphor that it gave to us and what it meant for Edith. I think this is one that some people will think "what" and others will think "oh yes" and I am glad I am one of the latter. I liked the idea that if we don't find something that we love doing, we will go extinct. I also really liked that Edith did what she had to in order to really find herself, even though that meant letting go of pieces of her that she tried so hard to hold onto.
I thought the family dynamic was the best part of this. I liked seeing how Edith interacted with her parents and her sister, especially growing up. I liked that she put such heavy stock in her relationship with her father and that because of this she didn't want to let him down when it came to taking care of Viv even after his death. I also really liked that Edith felt such pressure from herself to do the "right thing" because no one else was going to do it for Viv. I felt like some of her storyline with Viv was left unresolved but I feel like that is pretty true for life as well. I would have liked a bit more interaction with Raven and Jonathan. And definitely less Liam. He was a red flag from the beginning and became worse as time went on.
I would say that this book will appeal to 20-somethings who are doing what they can to orient themselves in the world and carve a space out for themselves in relation to their family members. It is difficult to make your way in the world, especially when you feel as though you are in the shadow of an older sibling. I think what The Gallery of Lost Species does well is create emotions that everyone feels when they are not sure if they should move forward or stay stagnant in the past.