Laurence was only 38 when she wrote about Hagar Shipley – an unlikable, stubborn woman who somehow wins you over as she struggles to accept her waning body and mind. Born to a successful merchant in a fictional prairie town of western Canada, Hagar floats between past and present, uncovering a woman whose pride prevented her from fully living or loving.
“Pride was my wilderness, and the demon that led me there was fear. I was alone, never anything else, and never free, for I carried my chains within me, and they spread out from me and shackled all I touched.”
Hagar’s mother dies during childbirth, her brother dies of pneumonia, she loses touch with her father when she marries a man he disapproves of, and eventually loses her son to the life she never wanted for him.
Through the story of a stern woman Laurence also dusts off old age itself.
“My satin nightgown, rumpled and twisted, hampers and hobbles me. I seem to be rather shaky. The idiotic quivering of my flesh won’t stop. My separate muscles prance and jerk. …I shuffle slowly, thinking how peculiar it is to walk like this, not to be able to command my legs to pace and stride.”
If you never had to read this book for school, pick up a copy for one of those cold winter weekends coming up. And if you did read it in school, dust off that copy and read it again. You’ll enjoy it more now.
(For those of you who refuse to read anything that isn’t glossy, instructional or in email form, visit co-Captivator Justin Anderson’s blog for a review of the film version of this book.)
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