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Posted: September 13, 2020

A story of hard work, hope and possibility

Book Review

By Derryll White

Coady, Lynn (2019).  Watching You Without Me.

Lynn Coady somehow compels me to read her. I never quite know what I am getting when I begin a novel of hers, but I trust it will be a journey worth taking.

‘Watching You Without Me’ took me back to my own years of caregiving – the fear, the scramble for resources and sanity, then the release into understood purpose.  “Oh, this is what I am committing to!”  Coady takes you to places you might not want to go but she does so gently, offering deeper looks into your own soul.

There are insights into the east coast culture and mindset, as the story takes place in Nova Scotia. Family looms large, much larger than we normally encounter in the west.  Coady educates the reader on both the riches and frustrations that come with giving care to someone who is developmentally delayed.

The strongest theme in the story involves the relations between man and woman.  Lynn Coady had me examining my own attitudes and actions towards women.  This is not a p-c kind of story exploring what is correct in today’s society.

More fundamentally, Coady explores what is required to manage a world in which male dominance is the norm.  Karen has a few false starts, but ends up besting both male presumptions and a society not designed to enable people who diverge from the mainstream.  This is a story of hard work, hope and possibility. I continue to be an avid Lynn Coady reader.

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Excerpts from the novel:

MEN – But after my husband left, I would sit in our former home, now half-emptied of whatever furniture and objects he deigned to take with him, and tell myself, like battalions of women had before me, it was the fault of this thing called Men.  But it was also my fault,  for not paying close enough attention to Men, for being cavalier, for not being as careful as other women I knew, women who made their painstaking efforts to understand and negotiate Men as creatures separate from themselves an ongoing project.

A GIFT – I went inside thinking about how content Kelli and Jessica made each other.  When she wasn’t driving you crazy, Kelli’s presence could have a calming effect.  It wasn’t just her rhythmic whispering and murmuring, although that could be very soothing.  It was a quality I could only think to describe as her companionability.  She comforted you with her presence.  My mother had the power to make people feel kind – reassured that the world was a decent place and that they, therefore, must be decent too.  But Kelli could make you feel less alone.

TORONTO – Toronto, as every east coast Canadian is raised to understand, is where the nation’s arseholes congregate.  It is a place for people who care only about work – but not even real work.  Not construction, or the fisheries, but some vague, glad-handy business that takes place in office towers and requires the wearing of suits and a lot of insecure smiling and shaking of hands.  Such people live in towers identical to the towers in which they work.  They spend what little free time they have shuttling themselves from one tower to the next, existing at he gloomy heart of a cluster of such towers, where the rays of the sun can never reach them.

– Derryll White once wrote books but now chooses to read and write about them.  When not reading he writes history for the web at www.basininstitute.org.


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