|4 out of 5 stars|
My nostrils shrink from the stink of formaldehyde. The boys can always be counted on to handle the dissections. That’s what I like about boys—they prefer to mess with animal innards instead of ripping each other’s guts out.
I must confess, I often shrink away from books which explore that hellish part of life, junior high and high school. Who really wants to remember all the nasty things we did to each other back then? But this is what Zoe Lemonoupolos must do, as she returns home to Bitter Lake to help her parents move into a seniors’ villa. Zoe is successful in her own way—she runs a thriving business as a professional organizer, she has a dentist husband, and she has just discovered that she is pregnant. Perfection, right? Well, maybe.
It is one thing to sort through other people’s belongings, purging and organizing. It’s another to sort through your own past and deal with what you find there. Even under good circumstances, there are issues that families don’t want to deal with, questions they don’t want to answer, and places they don’t want to go. Zoe has always had a difficult relationship with her parents and her sister, for reasons that the reader is unsure of.
It becomes obvious early in the novel that Zoe has become a professional organizer because she is rigidly controlling her own life, and it spills over into her career choice. What is this intelligent woman running away from? Why is she so unsure of her own mothering skills? Can she sort it out and find happiness in this pregnancy?
Deliyannides nails the small town environment of Bitter Lake—she has obviously spent time in just such a community. Everybody thinking they know enough of everyone else’s business to judge. The business owners in precarious financial situations, the laid-off rig workers getting drunk and abusive, the popular kids at school lording it over the less popular. She also knows the small details—the sliver of old soap melded to the new bar, the throw pillows arranged to cover stains, the sentimental calendar of the old country hanging in an office.
Coming from an Alberta small town myself, I appreciated the accuracy of the details and the complexity of the emotions. A very enjoyable book.