Friday, September 26, 2014

The Sweet Edge by Alison Pick

In my quest for books set in Toronto I often come across those set only partially in the city, which can sometimes make it hard to capture the vibe of this place. Pick's novel, which is set half in Toronto and half in the wilderness of the Northwest Territories, actually manages to be more imbued with the essence of the city in the latter half, through its absence.

The story follows two halves of an imploding couple - Adam, a classic bro-gressive type who moved to Toronto for university and is itching to find himself slash get out of uncomfortable personal situations he's created through his selfishness (my interpretation!), and Ellen, a beautiful, financially stable young woman who lacks purpose, and who follows Adam to Toronto and is now floundering in the city without him. The relationship is falling apart when Adam decides to go on a two month canoe trip in the north. On the first day, he writes Ellen a letter saying things are over between them. At the halfway point, he writes her another one to say that he has reconsidered.

Meanwhile Ellen spends a sticky hot summer working in a small gallery, of which there are about eleven million in my neighbourhood alone, so this definitely rings true. She is devastated and lost without Adam, but eventually meets some older queer women who take her in and begin to try to encourage her to claim some independence and fall in love with the city. Part of this consists of meditation classes (meetings?), where Ellen slowly prepares herself to face true emptiness. As she does, Adam is also beginning to understand emptiness - the question is will this understanding bring them back together, or provide the closure they need to move apart?

The conclusion is less important, I think, than the journey. I wasn't thrilled with how it ended but I did love how it got there, and the characters certainly rang true. As an exploration of a breakup, the novel felt very honest, and the theme that really emerged for me was that there existed more than just Ellen's truth and Adam's truth, that the real story had many facets. That said, I still found Adam to be an unconscionable douche. However, I never found Ellen's feelings for him unbelievable, so that's something.

As I said, I found Toronto had more presence in Adam's story than in Ellen's, just from its absence. The story wasn't totally my cup of tea, but Pick is a beautiful writer and I would definitely read her work again.

Three CN Towers out of five.

No comments:

Post a Comment