Border Markers / Jenny Ferguson
Edmonton AB: NeWest Press, c2016.
This is first of two short, fragmented storytelling experiences I read recently -- this first one is a novel in flash fiction chapters, following the Lansing family as they begin to break apart after the death of a teenager in their circle. Set in Alberta, the narrative style is as open as the landscape, yet bound within the brevity of the chapters.
The story alternates between different perspectives, those of the family members at different ponts in their lives, and some from the point of view of others involved in their drama.
The stories are sharp, concise and yet expansive in their possibilities. You start to feel as if you know these characters who are only outlined in brief glimpses. Because of the structure, though, I did feel that the ending didn't come with quite enough punch, with enough closure to round out the building narrative. It trails off, in a sense reflective of the way the individual parts of the book do the same. It was an absorbing and well thought out book though, and I did enjoy the storytelling.
Vi / Kim Thuy; translated from the French by Sheila Fischman
Toronto: Penguin Random House, c2018
On the other side of the country, Kim Thuy's latest novel follows the life of a Vietnamese family who've ended up in Montreal. It's very much focused on the same themes as her last two books, Ru and Man, but here it doesn't carry as much impact, at least for me.
Told from the point of view of Vi, youngest daughter of a successful Vietnamese family, we hear about her childhood in Vietnam, until the war separates their family. Her mother takes her children and flees to Canada, leaving their father behind. Vi must adjust to this new world, and the story skips ahead over much of their lives, until Vi is a young adult rebelling against her mother and her expectations.
Vi ends up back in Vietnam, with a French lover who eventually disappears, a thread that is unresolved. And Vi herself feels a little unresolved. Like Thuy's other novels, this one is told in brief and fragmentary pieces, but here I couldn't follow the through-line as well and ended up not feeling much connection to this narrative.
It was good, but not amazing, and I'm already forgetting a lot of it. Hopefully I'll like the next one a little better once again.