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Liberty Street: A Novel

de Dianne Warren

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425488,196 (3.36)1
A newly-single woman revisits the poor choices she had made throught her life, returning to the small town in western Canada where she grew up and lived through the violent death of a close friend in an unsolved hit-and-run accident.
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This book tells the story of Frances, who one day blurts out a secret to her long-time partner, Ian. Something from her past that she never intended to tell a soul. This secret has ramifications on her relationship with Ian. It also motivates her to go back to the small town she came from -- both in fact, and in her memories. It's well written and engaging, but I struggled to identify with the character and couldn't really understand what motivated her. ( )
  LynnB | Apr 29, 2019 |
While on holiday in Ireland with Ian, her common-law partner of 20 years, 60-ish Frances Moon lets slip a profound and telling truth about herself: a secret so closely guarded and with origins so deep in the past that she’d believed she’d escaped it. Once it is out, however, the secret resonates painfully into the present. Back home in Saskatchewan, she and Ian fail to reconcile, and in order to deal with the ghosts that have never actually stopped plaguing her, Frances is compelled to pack up the life she’s spent forty years constructing and return to her home town of Elliot. In Elliot she takes up residence in the house that her uncle had built more than fifty years earlier, still the only house on Liberty Street, a failed development separated from the main part of town by the railway tracks, with the intention of finally sorting through the family belongings and mementos that fill the place. Warren devotes the bulk of her novel to flashbacks that depict in highly dramatic fashion the childhood and adolescence of Frances Mary Moon, an imaginative and curious child growing up on a dairy farm with her pragmatic father and idealistic mother. Central to the story is Frances’ relationship with her mother, Alice, who is determined that Frances better herself through education and escape from Elliot, where a dreary, demoralizing, back-breaking future as a farmer’s wife surely awaits. Frances is smart but wilful. She defies her mother at every turn and on many occasions does precisely the opposite of what her mother has asked her to do. Finally, on the cusp of adulthood, rebellious to the end, she makes a life-altering mistake that she spends the next forty years trying to put behind her. The story that Warren tells is vivid and wistful. Her characters are filled with regret over their rash actions, connections not made and words left unsaid. Often moving, it is also told with wry humour. Liberty Street is a more than worthy follow-up to Dianne Warren’s GG Award winning novel Cool Water and is sure to satisfy any reader looking for a full-blooded novel about human relationships and the past that haunts us all. ( )
  icolford | Jun 13, 2018 |
Frances has been keeping secrets from her current lover. Secrets that are so disturbing that he kicks her to the curb and splits. She returns to her childhood hometown and we are treated to extremely detailed character studies. She is not a sympathetic character and causes herself no end of troubles. This work is exquisitely written. My thanks to the author and the Penguin First to Read program for a complementary copy. ( )
  musichick52 | Jan 3, 2017 |
Liberty Street by Dianne Warren is a recommended novel about a woman confronting her past.

Frances Moon, a woman "nearer 60 than 50," is on a vacation in Ireland with her partner of 20 years, Ian, when she blurts out two secrets she has been keeping from him since they met: She had a child who died when she was 19 and she is still married to another man, if he is still living, although he wasn't the father of the baby. Understandably, Ian is upset and heads home to Canada. Frances follows him back to Canada. After a few tense days, Ian tells her that she is a person who resists happiness before he leaves on what may or may not be a business trip. Frances decides to quit her job and head to Elliot, the small town in northern Saskatchewan where she grew up. The story then shifts back in time to when Frances was a child in the 1960's growing up on a dairy farm with her parents.

Liberty Street is extremely well written. Warren deftly establishes the time periods and settings with skill. You will feel what life in a small rural town in Saskatchewan was like for Frances and others. The characters are well developed, including secondary characters. However, Frances's past story unfolds with great restraint and none of the characters are highly emotional.

While Frances is a well developed character, she is also an unlikable character who seems to go through life sabotaging herself, lacking any ambition beyond rebelling, denial, and escapism. After making mistakes, (which we all do, especially when young) she didn't seem to learn or grow as a person from them. Perhaps the disconnect I felt toward to her character is because Warren doesn't allow Frances to share her motivations for many of her acts. It's okay to have an unlikable character, but for most readers to connect with these broken people, we need a glimpse of some kernel of truth, some admission of her motives, her mistakes.

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes. ( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Aug 14, 2016 |
About six years ago, I read Cool Water, the Governor-General’s award-winning novel by Dianne Warren and I really enjoyed it, so I was excited to learn she had another novel published, Liberty Street. I’m surprised that I had not heard more about this book.

Frances Moon is a middle-aged woman on a holiday with her long-term partner when she blurts out a secret she has kept for decades: “’I lost a baby when I was nineteen. . . . it died. Before that, I was married. But not to the father of the baby. . . . I’m still married now . . . Unless my husband has died . . . (2 – 4). That admission ends the holiday, and Frances finds herself compelled to revisit her hometown of Elliot in northern Saskatchewan where she explores the events and long-repressed memories that have shaped her life. Her relationship with her mother is examined, a difficult relationship considering her mother championed education and Frances had no ambition for continuing studies past high school.

Frances is not a very likeable character. As a young girl, she has no personal ambition; actually, she totally lacks self-knowledge and seems to want to coast through life. Despite warnings from many people, she makes a decision which ends badly. Her choice then is to step out of that life and pretend “It didn’t happen” (238). She makes more poor choices which she regrets and deals with by escaping into another life: “’I became a different person afterward’” (6). Of course, she can’t totally outrun her past as her spontaneous revelation to her partner suggests, and it is only by facing her past that she can move on. She is “nearer sixty than fifty” (4) when she learns to be less self-centred, realizes that she was not the only one to make bad decisions, and decides to be kinder to others?! Talk about arrested emotional development! Unfortunately, I know someone who is just like her so though Frances may be infuriating, she is realistic.

The character development is exceptional. Characters are fully developed and differentiated. Frances’ mother and father are developed so well that the reader can predict their reactions to events. Dooley Sullivan is an interesting secondary character who is given a chapter to himself. This chapter I found disconcerting since no other character is given a section from his/her point of view. The information given could have been incorporated into a conversation between Frances and Dooley when they meet on Liberty Street.

Life in a small town is portrayed very realistically. I did not grow up in rural Saskatchewan, but the attitudes and habits of the townsfolk in Elliot reflect those of the people in my small Ontario hometown.

I’ve always enjoyed books where a character must come to terms with his/her past, and this one is no exception. Frances returns to Liberty Street to get her freedom, but realizes that there is no liberty from one’s past: it makes us who we are and, hopefully, we can learn from it.

Please check out my reader's blog (http://schatjesshelves.blogspot.ca/) and follow me on Twitter (@DCYakabuski). ( )
  Schatje | Jun 6, 2016 |
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No n'hi ha cap

A newly-single woman revisits the poor choices she had made throught her life, returning to the small town in western Canada where she grew up and lived through the violent death of a close friend in an unsolved hit-and-run accident.

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