A grieving widow, lost and alone, escapes to a wild terrain in this debut novel.
Sorrow can be a funny thing—just when people think that they have it in check, it sneaks up on them when they least expect it. Such is the case with Grace Irwin. After the unexpected death of her husband, Grace finds herself unmoored. She’s unsure where she belongs, and now that she doesn’t have a spouse or children (they are all grown up) to take care of, she doesn’t know who she is. In search of clarity, Grace heads to northern Ontario’s French River, and each passing day helps her cope. Eventually, she realizes that though she was happy, the life she led with her husband wasn’t the one she set out to have. Through letters and testimonies, she confesses this to him. What could Grace have been if she hadn’t gone along with the societal and patriarchal expectations that she would get married, be a wife and mother, and do nothing else? She can only answer this question as she pushes aside her past, and in doing so, she (and her new friends) finds a quiet strength and plenty of possibilities. Andrews’ work mirrors the stages of grief—in the beginning, the story feels heavy with uncertainty and doubt, but as Grace becomes surer of herself, the tale sheds her regrets. The book’s vibe reflects her healing. Countless novels trace a woman’s exploration, but here that subject rises above a cliché. Grace’s feelings are raw and she’s far from perfect, which makes her odyssey more engaging. Another piece of the narrative frame, Grace’s letters, remains engrossing because she failed to speak these words to her husband because of his pride and her fear. A host of readers should relate to this situation, but the fact that Grace writes her misgivings down as a means of catharsis becomes especially poignant. While she may not have flourished in the way she had hoped, she gets the last word. The author peppers nuggets of wisdom throughout the book, such as “There are no measurements for what’s hard, you know. Hard is hard.” These gems are worth highlighting. Like Grace, many readers are lost in a labyrinth, and it’s with honesty and a few trusted friends that they can move into the future.
One woman’s valuable and heartfelt journey to the next phase of her life.