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Riskin, Mary Walters.

Edmonton, NeWest Press, 1987. 224pp, paper, ISBN 0-920897-20-7 (cloth) $18.95, 0-920897-18-5 (paper) $8.95. CIP

Reviewed by Brenda Watson

Volume 15 Number 6
1987 November

The Woman Upstairs is Diana Leven-worth's journey—geographically and psychologically-back to the small Ontario town she grew up in and then fled, to escape her mother, a boyfriend's suicide, and herself. Diana has been called to her dying mother's bedside (the woman upstairs).

A series of flashbacks and scenes in the present tell us two stories. One is the story of Diana's life from childhood to thirty-three years of age. The other concerns family and small community dynamics at the time of a death. Neither story is unusual or told with new insight into the maturation of a young woman. It takes Diana a long time to separate from her past and be ready to create a satisfying life of her own. The novel seems to be moving toward a revelation equal to the soul-searching Diana has been experiencing. However, the final coming together of the two opposing forces is disappointing. When Diana finally climbs the stairs to visit her mother she seems to have, as usual, resolved everything on her own. There is not a convincing exchange of thoughts and feelings between the two women.

Mary Walters Riskin is an active member of the Alberta literary community. She has had short stories published in Canadian literary journals and anthologies. Riskin loves language and often describes people, objects, and events from a refreshing point of view or with a novel twist of phrase. The story has enough suspense to sustain the reader. It is interesting and the characters are convincing.

The paperback edition is oversized with an attractive cover. It is sturdy and the black print is crisp and easy to read. Recommended for readers who enjoy psychological coming-of-age novels by promising Canadian authors.

Brenda Watson, Dunsmuir J.S.S, Victoria, B.C.
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