On her deathbed, an old woman recalls her life in this latest from the Canadian Itani (Deafening, 2003, etc.).
Lucky Georgie: She’s off to London to see the Queen. The 80-year-old Canadian widow was born on the same day as Elizabeth and, along with 98 other randomly selected guests, has been invited to a celebratory lunch at Buckingham Palace. But leaving her house in Ontario, Georgie mishandles her car, which sails into a ravine. She is thrown free and lands on her back, badly injured, but with a memory clear enough to give us her life story. It’s an odd frame, which might not matter if her story were more interesting. Georgie has always been a staunch monarchist, and she talks to Lilibet (the Queen’s childhood name) in her head. She has also had a lifelong interest in bones, which began when she discovered Gray’s Anatomy and fell in love with the illustrations. She never knew its owner—her grandfather the doctor, who was killed in World War I—but her grandmother, a midwife, was a strong righteous presence in her life, unlike her gloomy, withdrawn father, who owned a dry-goods store in the small town of Wilna Creek. It’s the women who stand out here, whether Georgie’s mother Phil, now a vigorous centenarian, or her driven daughter Case, who started her own theater in town. Georgie did have a long and generally happy marriage to Harry, a jeweler, despite his dark moods and a disastrous American honeymoon (the novel’s only other dramatic moment). But there was nothing vivid about him, and he clammed up completely in the months before his death from cancer. Georgie herself is strangely absent from her own life. There was no money for medical school, so she made do with helping out in the store and being a good wife and mother. “It’s been a privilege” is her clichéd conclusion.
A desultory chronicle that’s a far cry from the passion of Deafening.