In Ontario, we are celebrating family day! It is a holiday observed on the third Monday of February which began in 2008. Even if you do not live in Ontario and are not lucky enough to enjoy a long weekend, it is a great time to reflect and enjoy our families. Of course, I have to connect the day with reading and the holiday has made me reflect on some of my favourite books about families that I have read over the past couple of years.
The first book that came to mind is Anne of Green Gables. This is one of my favourite Canadian classics. Not only is it a wonderful story full of Anne’s hijinks and fun, it is story of a family coming together. Marilla is shocked when Matthew comes home with a girl from the orphanage. She was not the boy who was expected to help out on the farm but a spirited girl with red hair, creativity and an infectious zest for life. This is a book that every family should read… an revisit!
If I Fall, I Die is the tale of a boy living and supporting his mother who is afflicted with mental illness. She is not able to leave the house and is terrified that something will happen to her son so she protects him, stifling his freedom. He too is kept inside the house and when he steps outside and discovers nothing bad had happened to him, demands to go to school, gaining freedom, getting into trouble and slowly understanding his own family history.
Lisa Genova educates readers through her fiction with Inside the O’Briens. This story highlights the O’Brien family when Joe, that father, begins having unexplained movements and personality changes. He is diagnosed with Hungtingtons Disease, an inherited neuralgic disorder that leaves each of his four children with a 1 in 2 chance of being positive for the HD gene. Each of them has to face the possibility and decide whether it is better to know that they would be positive, knowing that their life would be limited, or live without knowing definitively but always wondering if the silent gene would impact their lives. After counselling, they each make individual decisions about seeking answers as they watch their dad’s symptoms progress.
Lullabies for Little Criminals is the opposite to the idyllic life of Anne of Green Gables. It is like a trainwreck that you just can’t look away from or put down yet it is full of sadness and despair. The story is told by Baby, who is 12 to 13 years old for most of the book. She is being “raised” by a father who loves her yet is a heroin addict and unable to care for her. They move from one seedy apartment to another, he rarely has a job and Baby spends time in foster care and juvenile detention. She is a bright student but has no guidance or adults to help steer in a positive direction.
I was lucky to meet Canadian Author, Emma Donoghue this year. Her bestselling book, Room is a unique story of a captive woman raising her son in a small room. Ma did her best to care for and entertain her son in the small place yet the story is painful and listening to the audio version with the child, Jack as the narrator did not make it any easier!
Readers of my blog will know that I am a huge fan of Richard Wagamese. Medicine Walk was my favourite book of 2017 which is a quiet tale of loss, love, life and death. It takes place in the British Columbia interior through the eyes of a young boy learning about his family on a journey through the wilderness and through the past. It is the coming of age story of Franklin Starlight who accompanies his estranged father, Eldon, to his final resting place, learning about his family during their walk. I think ALL Canadians should read this book.
After Medicine Walk, I eagerly enjoyed Ragged Company which is the story of a unique family made up of rounders, homeless people. During a severe cold snap the foursome seeks the warmth of a movie theatre. They appreciate the warmth and fall in love with the stories within the films. They meet Granite, a retired journalist who is dealing with his own issues and who is initially hesitant to engage with the ‘ragged company’ who sit near him and quietly drink from their bottles during he movies. Slowly they become friends and develop respect for each other and then the foursome discovers a lottery ticket in a discarded cigarette package forcing them to come to terms with the demons of their past and their newfound wealth.
Zoe Whittall‘s The Best Kind of People was shortlisted for the 2016 Giller Prize. It details the lives of the members of the Woodbury family after the patriarch, George, is taken away in handcuffs along with his computers and many items from the family home. Each member of he family deals with their own issues and doubts, none of them really knowing what to believe.
Another classic family story is Little Women which is the coming of age story of a family with 4 girls living with their mother while their father is away during the Civil War. The sisters: Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy make the best of difficult times supporting each other, helping their mother and making their own fun. They all have lessons to learn and know that what is really important is family!
For those of you that still have little people to be read to, take the time to sit down and enjoy a book together. Although my children are too old for these books, I know that we share fond memories of sitting together to read. Here are a few of our favourites:
Every family has a unique story and is comprised differently. I hit the jackpot with my family and am so lucky to have the love and support from all of them! It is wonderful to have a day to focus on family and I wish everyone a great day together!!