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Christine Higdon

Autor/a de The Very Marrow of Our Bones

2 obres 83 Membres 13 Ressenyes

Obres de Christine Higdon

The Very Marrow of Our Bones (2018) 58 exemplars


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I loved this book. I'd read Ms. Higdon's first book, The Very Marrow of Our Bones, and loved that one too. Hope she writes another one soon!

This is the story of four working class sisters set in Vancouver in 1922-23. Many of the issues it deals with remain -- or are resurging -- today, unfortunately. Abortion is illegal so one sister resorts to a back-street provider who nearly kills her. One sister is gay and watches a male gay friend get severely beaten for his orientation. One married sister longs to go to university, but higher education for women isn't a popular idea, especially for married women. One sister is blissfully happy, not knowing that her husband is having an affair with one of her sisters. Their mother is addicted to laudanum. Today, as we see abortion rights being cut back in the U.S., the opioid crisis, as well as rises in homophobia and transphobia, this book is very relevant.

Perhaps more importantly, it's a great story written in a way that completely engrossed me. The character development is strong, allowing the reader to see the inner struggles of each person. Their interactions were so well written.

A great tale of love, loss, acceptance, family ties...wonderful book.

I could have done without the talking dog. It took me out of the reality of the story a bit.
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LynnB | Hi ha 3 ressenyes més | Nov 22, 2023 |
This is an excellent read that pulled me in on the first page and never let go. It's the story of four working class sisters, in Vancouver Canada, shortly after WW1.

Morag is happily married to Llewellyn, and is pregnant. Georgina is unhappy in her marriage, and hoping to get an education. Isla is also pregnant, unmarried, and is in love with one of her sister's husbands. Isla seeks out a back alley abortion and nearly dies. Meanwhile, the youngest sister , Harriet, finds herself in love with another woman. Harriet and Isla still live at home with their mom, Ahmie, who is addicted to opium, prescribed by her doctor to treat her grief.

Such a fascinating story, with well drawn characters and several elements of tension that kept me turning the pages. This book would be great for a book club discussion : abortion, same -sex attraction, love, family and addiction .I hope Gin, Turpentine , Pennyroyal Rue will be up for Can-Lit awards in 2024.

Highly recommended.
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1 vota
vancouverdeb | Hi ha 3 ressenyes més | Oct 6, 2023 |
In 2018, I read Christine Higdon’s debut novel, The Very Marrow of Our Bones ( Because I really liked it, I looked forward to reading her sophomore book. I enjoyed it very much.

The book focuses on the lives of the four McKenzie sisters living in Vancouver in 1922. Georgina, the eldest, is married to Victor, a man who provides her financial security but does not make her happy. Morag is happily married and newly pregnant; her husband Llewellyn is a policeman who is also a rum-runner. Isla is secretly in love with Llewellyn; finding herself pregnant, she has a back-street abortion that nearly results in her death. Harriet-Jean, the youngest, is confused because of her feelings for another woman, Flore Rozema. The family also includes Ahmie, the women’s mother who is addicted to laudanum, and Rue, a beagle rescued by Harriet.

I loved how there is no difficulty differentiating the sisters. Each emerges as a distinct character. Georgina yearns for more - opportunities that her working class family could not provide. Morag is blissfully happy, while Isla, though she is seen as “opinionated and fearless, and defiant,” has regret as a constant companion. Harriet-Jean struggles with her feelings for a woman in a world where homophobic violence is common. I found myself empathizing with each woman. For instance, Georgina may be “imperious . . . so rarely soft, so rarely amiable,” but her back story cannot but move the reader. Even Ahmie who is an ineffectual mother deserves sympathy for all that she has endured.

The novel is excellent at describing the realities of life in the 1920s, especially for women. It is men who decide what a woman can and cannot do. Life for a pregnant, married woman is untenable: “’A child out of wedlock is a prison sentence for a woman. And not only that, she’d be a victim of society’s disapprobation for the rest of her life.’” Flore describes Isla’s life if she’d had the baby: she’d “’be seen as a fallen woman. By virtually every human being whose feet trod this earth. Lose her job. Be sneered at and judged by even the shortest pillars of society. The self-righteous, the hypocritical.’” Since abortion is illegal, women turn to “’Gin. Turpentine. Pennyroyal. Rue. . . . Hat pin. Crochet hook. Knitting needle. Bicycle spoke.’”

But it is not just the harsh realities of women’s lives that are depicted. A man is badly beaten because he is a homosexual. Georgina’s husband rails against “the tide of Oriental immigration.” Disparaging comments are made about other immigrants such as Italians. Wealthy women gather to “bemoan the plight of the poor. Debate the causes of poverty (laziness, uncleanliness, lack of faith, undesirable hereditary traits, too much drink).” Men lose their lives in war and to the pandemic and leave shattered families.

Though set one hundred years in the past, the book is so relevant to the present. The reversal of abortion laws in the U.S. may mean women must once again turn to dangerous ways of ending unwanted pregnancies. Intolerance toward gay and Trans people seems to be increasing. Drug addiction, demonization of immigrants, and police corruption continue to be problems. Isla wonders “How different will life be for . . . children who arrived in the world nearly a generation after my sisters and me?” The answer is not positive.

The book is narrated from the perspective of various characters. The most unusual is that of Rue. I enjoyed his comments about the humans he encounters. He provides comic relief, though the humour is sometimes dark. For instance, when he hears about shell shock, he says, “I paid careful attention to where I placed my feet when walking with Rasia on the shell-strewn beaches near our abode, lest I be shocked.”

I love the author’s figures of speech. A dull and disappointing man is “a tire puncture on one’s bicycle the morning of a planned excursion, an empty jelly jar.” A confused man standing in a doorway is “lost as Franklin was, there in his own frozen Northwest Passage.”

The book examines a number of serious and important issues (search for love and justice and acceptance and equality and identity, sexual orientation, corruption, addiction, reproductive rights) but in a manner that engages the reader with both heart-warming and heart-breaking episodes.

It’s been five years since I read The Very Marrow of Our Bones, but I may have to re-read it. I remember that there’s a character named Aloysius McFee in that novel. Could he be the same Aloysius McFee from this novel? I will certainly be recommending Gin, Turpentine, Pennyroyal, Rue and then suggesting that readers who have not already done so might want to read The Very Marrow of Our Bones afterwards.

Note: I received a digital galley from the publisher via NetGalley.

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Schatje | Hi ha 3 ressenyes més | Sep 11, 2023 |
I received an advance copy of this book, Thank you.

Once I got the characters squared away, I immediately became engrossed in this story. Although it takes place at the end of World War I, there is much that resonates with what is sadly still going on today; drug addiction, illegal abortion, being pursued for wanting one, the stigma of being pregnant without a husband, the stigma of being a woman and not being married, the stigma of being gay. We haven't come that far, and are endangered of going backwards.
The story of 4 sisters opens with three of the sisters meeting and getting drunk, Georgina is the eldest, married, and despises her husband, Morag is madly in love with her husband, and pregnant, Harriet, is in love with a fiery, vibrant woman. Ilsa was supposed to meet them, has snuck away for an illegal abortion, that nearly kills her.
This crisis brings the family together, and causes them to question themselves and their dreams. The story is told mainly through Ilsa's eyes and Rue, a rescue dog they adapted. I liked the addition of Rue sharing her interpretation of events, it added a bit of lightness to the tale.
I have not done justice in summarizing this book, it's a very good book, that will keep you engaged until the end, I highly recommend it.
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cjyap1 | Hi ha 3 ressenyes més | Jun 26, 2023 |



½ 4.3

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