Friday, January 24, 2020
Jim Nason's Spirit of a Hundred Thousand Dead Animals (#CanBookChallenge)
Skye Vannan makes for quite a fascinating character. Though not as extreme, she has a bit of the irascibility of Olive Kitteridge. She's born into a wealthy family in Edinburgh, and though she's not a beauty we're told, she could marry well. (As her mother expects her to try--we see how Skye comes by her difficult nature.) Instead she wants to be a veterinarian, still an unusual profession for a woman in Scotland. She marries a Canadian soldier at the end of World War II and moves to rural Ontario (Kincardine) where she becomes the region's vet. Her wealthy family mostly drops her.
Skye's one child, a daughter, dies in a car crash; her daughter's husband, wracked with guilt--he was driving--descends into the alcoholism he was already approaching. Skye is left to raise her two-year old grandson. Duncan shows a preternatural talent for drawing animals.
Can Skye come to terms with her own brusque nature? Can she break the cycle of difficult parents producing difficult children? Those are the questions of the book, and they're well-handled. Though she can't make it work out perfectly in the end, there's a measure of hope for the future with Duncan, though I did feel he was the less interesting character.
The other thing particularly to be said about the book is Jim Nason's astute handling of time. It covers a period of seventy-plus years, and the book moves successfully back and forth in time, revealing as it needs to to move forward, but with mysteries still hidden.
The title, though? It's suitable enough, I guess, with a veterinarian as the main character, and it has particular reference to the veterinary school in Edinburgh she attends. But not particularly appealing, I thought.
Read because I'm poking around in contemporary Canadian literature from small presses, for the Canadian Book Challenge.