In preparation for attending the Grimsby Author Series, in September, I read His Whole Life, the newest novel by Canadian author Elizabeth Hay. This is the first novel of Hay’s that I have read although I have Late Nights on Air and Alone in the Classroom on my nightstand competing for my attention. The novel makes the reader think and reflect on their own experiences with a beloved dog, with teenage angst, with family, with loss and with summers gone by.
The story revolves around Jim and begins as his family make their annual summer pilgrimage to his mother’s family home in Ontario. They leave the busy rush of New York City for the contrasting peace of paddling on the lake, the quiet of the country and the love of their extended family. Here Jim can appreciate nature, solitude, family and the unconditional love of his Aunt and Uncle’s old, faithful dog.
The years bring turmoil – challenges at school, death, sickness and family discord which is predominately reflective of his life in New York and the negativity of his American father. This angst is contrasted by the tranquility of the summer home where he has a chance to reflect and reconcile “his whole life.”
While I enjoyed this novel, there is a certain melancholy to it while Jim struggles through many difficult rites of passage and a great deal of loss. The love of a dog and the call of nature helps him through hard times as he discovers his own strength. With the novel’s, serious tone, perhaps it is a book to enjoy once the warm summer days of summer are over and the structure of fall is here.
I look forward to meeting this author who admits that she still writes using a pen and paper and will post a review of the author series. The series promoted by the Grimsby Public Library will host both Elizabeth Hay and Paula McLain at the first session so look forward to a review of McLain’s newest novel , Circling the Sun in the weeks ahead.