Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Book Review: Ithaca

In Susan Fish's new novel, a woman who has let herself be defined by her family life is suddenly widowed and is forced to learn a new way to live. When Daisy's geologist professor husband drops dead of a heart attack she feels like her solid, sedentary life has been fracked. The spring of his passing also marks a change in her community. Anti-fracking signs appear on the roadside and Daisy finds herself wondering about them.

Where once Daisy kept herself apart, even in the weekly suppers she hosted while her husband was alive, now she feels the urge to participate. She begins to take a class to learn about fracking. Along the way she meets new people and is exposed to new ideas. She keeps hosting the Wednesday dinners, but becomes involved in them instead of watching from the outside. She begins to find her voice.

The story is quiet and sometimes slow, but Fish's portrayal of human emotion is incredibly complex and perceptive. The secondary characters are so well drawn. One is a young single mother with a struggling family farm. One is a retired professor who rents a room and confesses to having given up a child when she was young. One is a man whose wife has MS and the two of them become close. The way they become close and how close they become has as much to do with her back-story as his. Her new ability to be close to people now that her husband is gone is the main story- but the people she gets close to have complicated, real lives. They don't seem to exist just to help tell Daisy's story. You can imagine they go home and live real lives without her.

Ultimately, this is not a book meant to educate you on fracking or tell you what to think about it. It is more about how Daisy learns to engage with her community, to find her own way to contribute and recognize her value. At first, she dismisses herself as too old, uneducated, just a housewife. But she comes to see her gift of bringing people together and getting them to tell their stories. She learns to balance the parts of her old life with her new desires.

The resolution of the story is a bit open-ended (like life) and felt very true to the character. I enjoyed the read.

No comments:

Post a Comment