Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Reading Journal: Where We Have to Go, by Lauren Kirshner (2009)

An excellent debut by a young Toronto writer whose strength is her application of detail. Kirshner describes very, very well, rarely over-detailing but always providing lots, which should come as no surprise: her mentor at U of T was Margaret Atwood. She slyly makes her aesthetic point near the book's end, when she gives her young woman protagonist this thought as she reflects on the events depicted, a difficult coming of age between 12 and 19: "Maybe what makes a story real are the details." After finishing, when I attended a workshop the author was giving on "writing local," emphasizing how to make place come alive, I could still remember the depictions of the dirty Murphy bed in the apartment, and the low-end name of the scuzzy apartment building - Tivoli Towers, nothing like the amusement park! - and some of the characters' appearances. Plus, early in the book, the hero ends up tagging along to an AA meeting, which is a novel and well-rendered scene, one of the book's best. Kirshner's is a fresh voice that, though its diction is occasionally odd, is one of the most promising Canadian ones I've read in a long time, particularly when you consider how early in her career she is. I'm excited to see what she does next.

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