JUSTINE LEWKOWICZ

Reviews

Stories 1 to 5 of 171
11/17/2014

BOOKENDS REVIEW: All My Puny Sorrows (Writers' Trust fiction prize winner)

All My Puny Sorrows Miriam Toews Fiction **Miriam Toews was awarded the 2014 Rogers Writers’ Trust of Canada fiction prize and shortlisted for the 2014 Giller Prize for All My Puny Sorrows. SYNOPSIS: Yoli and Elf love each other. The sisters would do anything for each other. But when Elf asks Yoli to do her one last favour, one that would end Elf’s life, Yoli isn’t sure she can do it. Elf, the successful, talented, happily married sister, only wants to die. Yoli, the divorced and broke sister, wants to keep Elf alive. Yoli tries everything to convince Elf that her life is worth living. Will she convince Elf, or will Elf convince Yoli otherwise? MY THOUGHTS: Miriam Toews delves deep into the miserable topic of suicide without saddling you with too much emotional weight. I don’t mean to say that the book is light, the whole story is about sorrow and death. But Toews makes it more about having an earnest discussion on mental health, and less about a depressing succession of events. What startled me a bit is how quick and uneventful the most dramatic moments seem. You might not think that a “dramatic” moment could be “uneventful.” ... Read more
11/11/2014

BOOKENDS REVIEW: The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy Rachel Joyce Fiction SYNOPSIS: Rachel Joyce calls this a companion novel to her first book, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.  In that debut novel, Harold Fry receives a letter from an old friend, Queenie Hennessy, informing him that she is dying of cancer. Harold writes a letter in return. But as he makes his way to the post office, he realizes he can’t stop walking. He decides that no matter what, he has to get to Queenie himself before she dies. She has to wait for him as he walks across the country to get to her. In The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, we hear the other side of the story. As Queenie lies in a hospice bed waiting for Harold to arrive, her past comes rushing back. She realizes that her first letter to Harold wasn’t enough. She begins to write a second one, revealing something she has been hiding from him for 20 years. MY THOUGHTS: Queenie Hennessy has a nice mix of grief and guilt, as well as happiness and subtle humour.   Two years ago, Rachel Joyce created a lovable character named Harold Fry. And ... Read more
10/31/2014

BOOKENDS REVIEW: Coming Ashore (A memoir)

Coming Ashore Catherine Gildiner Non-fiction (memoir) ABOUT THE BOOK: Coming Ashore is Catherine Gildiner’s third memoir, covering her life from the late ‘60s to the early ‘70s. And what a life she’s had. First, Catherine goes off to Oxford, where she studies poetry and gets a firsthand lesson on British society. And she hangs out with Jimi Hendrix. She then travels back to Ohio where she works as a teacher during the Hough Riots, a tense six days in a predominantly African-American community. When she moves to Canada, Catherine ends up living with members of the FLQ. Along the way, she has endless adventures and mishaps. MY THOUGHTS: The situations that Catherine Gildiner has gotten herself into are incredible. Some of the people she’s met are remarkably fascinating. She herself admits that memories are subjective. She tells her story in the way that she interprets her experiences. There’s no way that she has remembered every conversation retold in her memoir the way it actually happened. But that doesn’t matter. Gildiner will entertain you. She’ll make you laugh. She’ll make your mouth drop at times. She might also remind you of your own adventures. As I was reading about her years ... Read more
10/19/2014

BOOKENDS REVIEW: Girl Runner

Girl Runner Carrie Snyder Fiction **Girl Runner is a finalist for the Rogers Writers`Trust fiction prize. SYNOPSIS: At the age of 104, Aganetha Smart is alone. She has no one to take care of her, except the staff in her nursing home.   She is no longer the successful Olympic gold medallist she was in the 1920s. One day, two strangers come to visit. They take her down memory lane when they drive her to her childhood home. Aganetha begins to remember the dreams she once had, and the successes and failures that shaped her life. As the story unravels, Carrie Snyder reveals the strangers’ intentions and Aganetha’s past secrets. MY THOUGHTS: This book is so beautifully written, it’s now one of my favourites of the year. Snyder pulls you in by developing a character that is unforgettable. While Aganetha succeeds in becoming a world-class runner, she struggles with living a fulfilling life. In her effort to find joy, she discovers guilt and loss instead. Snyder proves that there is nothing worse than dying alone. The complexity of Aganetha’s relationship with Glad is also compelling. There’s a fine line between their friendship and their rivalry. Girl Runner is a wonderful ... Read more
10/2/2014

BOOKENDS REVIEW: David Cronenberg's Consumed

Consumed David Cronenberg Fiction SYNOPSIS: In a Paris apartment, authorities find the mutilated, dismembered and partially-consumed body of famous French intellectual Celestine Arosteguy. The prime suspect, her husband Aristide, has disappeared. Journalist Naomi Seberg takes it upon herself to find him and unravel the grisly mystery. She’ll do anything to get to the bottom of the story, including getting herself entangled in a creepy plot. Her boyfriend, Nathan Math, a medical journalist, also gets involved when he finds his own interesting subject in Toronto – a Hungarian doctor’s daughter who has unsettling habits. The two of them create a new, disturbing form of embedded journalism. MY THOUGHTS: If you’re a fan of classic, early David Cronenberg, you’ll be a fan of Consumed. The book is full of self-immolation, cannibalism, disease,and deranged erotica. The physical gore is nothing, though, compared to the psychological contortions of the characters’ minds. Most menacing is the thought process that leads to self-destruction. The one time Cronenberg lost me a bit is in the second half of the book. The flow of the story is put on pause when one of the characters explains a backstory. That aside, Consumed is satisfyingly disturbing.  Now that Cronenberg has ... Read more