Shelter – Frances Greenslade
In the beautiful, untouched bush of British Columbia’s wilderness, one little family lives off the land peacefully and simply. Irene, Patrick and their two little girls, Jenny and Maggie, have all they need in the wide open land and need little more than the small town, nearby. Though things are not always perfect, they are happy and wholesome, more often than not.
Their rustic haven comes crumbling down when an occupational disaster eaves Patrick dead and the three girls in his life grasping at straws. For a little while, they are able to cobble an existence together, leaning on neighbors and friends. Soon, though, the burden of life at it now looms out ahead, proves to be too much for Irene. She finds work away from the town and deposits the girls with a acquaintances (a less than child friendly couple with their own share of baggage to sort out), promising to be back as soon as she is able to pull together enough cash to ge them back on their feet.
After several weeks (and then months) pass with less and less contact from Irene, the girls and their caregivers, begin to suspect the worst. Left what they can only conclude to be parentless, Jenny and Maggie struggle through their preteen and early teen years awkward and alone, aside from their two rather reluctant, makeshift caregivers.
At times dark and heart wrenching, at others carefree and hopeful, Shelter is not the typical case study in your regular, run of the mill family. The acts of defining family, defining love, defining self, are woven througout the entire book in many different lights, from many different angles. The story is also an intricate, layered look at the many reasons and ways we grieve. It also explores why no two people can come away from an experience, good or bad, with the same perception.
Though the story is long, slow and winding, it never becomes dull or tedious. The writing is wonderful and the characters are deep enough to truly take hold of. It definitely fits into the category of “how on earth could a parent do that to a child” but, oddly, it seems like I’ve read quite a few of those, recently. I enjoyed this as a mother and a daughter and think that it is a lovely first outing for Greenslade.