Monday, June 3, 2024

May Books

I have three books to tell you about this month - starting with Unreconciled by Jesse Wente. 

Some of you may know Jesse Wente from CBC Radio.  He used to be the film critic on the morning show.  I always loved hearing what he had to say since it was clear he was a student of film.  My friend from skiing recommended this book to me and I am glad I took her up on it.  Jesse is Indigenous and tells us the history of his family - when they went to residential schools, how they left the reserve, travelling back to the reserve for family visits, and his white heritage as well.  He talks about his education from private school onto university and then the different trajectories of his career.  
Reconciliation is a big word in Canada, coming from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and it usually applies to how the white settlers can reconcile with the indigenous people. But what I found the most interesting is when how he applied that term to the reconciliation he has to do on a regular basis within himself. He has certain privilege that he feels doesn't reconcile with his indigenous heritage. He is often the "token Indian" but wanting to be seen as more than that.  I would not do this justice to try and explain it, but it was good to read about this perspective and understand how he sees the nuances.  I also really enjoyed his commentary about the time he spent at TIFF (the Toronto International Film Festival). I've always enjoyed TIFF, but the certainly have made some questionable choices about which movies to feature.  
Another great Canadian book.

Then I read Expiration Dates by Rebecca Serle.

I have read this author's other books and there is always a mystical element in the books where you just need to suspend belief and go with it.  Since I knew it was coming, I was able to more quickly just accept this was part of the story.  In this one the main character will find a slip of paper with a time period written on it every time she starts a new relationship.  The time is always the expiration date for that relationship - 5 days, 6 months, 3 years, whatever.  The source of the papers is never explained.  I was sufficiently entertained by this book.  I didn't overly enjoy the characters and even the little twists and turns were just okay. If you like her novels, you would probably like this one too, but it's not her best one, in my opinion. 

And finally Tom Lake by Ann Patchett.

I really enjoyed this book.  The main character is at home on their farm with her husband and three grown daughters.  It is set during the pandemic so the daughters are there to work on the farm, but this is the first time they have been all together for so long.  The daughters want to know their mother's story of being an actress and knowing a famous actor.  We hear the story as she tells it to her daughters.  
I thought this book did such a great job of describing the various settings, I could feel what its as like to be at the school gym, in California, in the small theatre town of Tom Lake in the summer of the late '70s/early '80 (not sure of the exact date), and even to be in the farmhouse.  It had so many elements of "what might have been" for the better and for the worse, and I just love reading about those feelings of melancholy.  I definitely had a few teary moments while reading. 
My only two gripes were that I really didn't need it to be during the pandemic, can we just forget about that? But I suppose it made sense because otherwise the daughters would have been out living their own lives in different parts of the country instead of being rapt by their mother's story. The second thing was that Our Town, the play, was at the centre of the story and I'm not really familiar with that play.  I did actually see it when I was younger at Neptune in Halifax, but I didn't remember a lot of it and I think I would have appreciated more if knew the play.  


  1. Expiration Dates is on my short list to hopefully read this summer.

  2. Unreconciled sounds great! I never heard of the author's perspective on having to reconcile his daily life and personal identity. It's a new perspective I had not thought about. Interestingly, it's National Reconciliation Week over here. As part of the curriculum, we have been discussing this topic with our preschoolers. It's an important concept, but it's tricky to teach to little kids.