Freehand Books, 2008
At 43, Clara Purdy's life is one of predictable organization and duty. Divorced years earlier, following a brief marriage, she lives alone in the house she shared with her mother, has worked for the same insurance company for twenty years, and faithfully attends church out of a sense of tradition.
All her routines change the moment she runs into the down-and-out Gage family. When she learns they'd been living in their car, and it turns out that the mother has a serious illness, Clara feels she must do something useful. She invites the father, Clayton, the three children, and their grandmother to stay with them while Lorraine remains in hospital. The rest, as they say, is history.
Beautifully written, with well drawn characters and a compelling story, this book took a little while to read, but was definitely worth the effort. I was a bit taken aback by developments in Clara's relationship with the good pastor, and am relieved that the author notes "that the parish and diocese described...bear no resemblance to any on earth." Otherwise, the one thing that irritated me was Father Paul's penchant for reciting esoteric poetry.
Winner 2009 Commonwealth Writers' Prize, Best Book (Regional: Canada); shortlisted 2008 Scotiabank Giller Prize ; shortlisted 2009 Evergreen Award