CM . . .
. Volume XXII Number 22. . . .February 12, 2016
Lydia, 15, and her Victoria, 14, move from Vancouver with their dysfunctional parents to their father’s family homestead near a small Saskatchewan town about 30 minutes from Saskatoon. While mother Mary Jane sinks into a suicidal depression and father Alex’s addictions prevent him from any good parenting, Lydia and Victoria brave the hokey, backward, isolated 1980’s school where ice queen Lydia shocks both staff and students with her out-there handmade clothing and her sarcastic, profanity-laced wit. Lydia begins a sexual relationship with Brady, a high-profile Junior A hockey player, while Victoria joins 4H, honing her riding skills on Silver, but both girls are essentially rejected by the community and suffer extreme loneliness. When Mary Jane returns to her parents’ Vancouver home so she can finish her nursing degree and Alex’s university teaching keeps him in Saskatoon some weekdays nights, the sisters decide to skip school entirely, eventually running away to stay in an abandoned cabin. After blizzards and fevers and the death of their dog Marx later, they are rescued. Brady’s hockey career takes him to Banff. Lydia and family return to Vancouver where her father has a new job.
Lydia’s anger goes beyond typical teenage angst. Continually disappointed by and yet longing for her parents, she reacts with confrontation and fury to their rejection. Lydia tries her best to protect Victoria, even playing Barbie dolls with her and encouraging her in the training of Silver. However, she never develops beyond this fierce anger. As the book ends, she seems to have learned no coping skills and still doesn’t accept or understand her parents’ illnesses/addictions.
Neither Mary Jane nor Alex can think beyond their own problems. Neither considers what the girls are going through nor offers any sympathy or everyday affection. Constant bickering defines the family dynamic. Their approach to nutrition is horrific: no one eats well. Neither parent connects with the school until they are faced with the girls’ non-attendance and disappearance.
The farm setting is extremely depressing both summer and winter as we see it through Lydia’s eyes. Particularly vivid is the girls’ trudge to the cabin and their survival there in the middle of blizzards. The connection to Louis Riel and Batoche (their farmhouse stands where the Metis retreated from Middleton) is reflected in Lydia’s dreams and on her walks.
Unfortunately, the book’s tone sometimes drops into melodrama which will set readers’ eyes rolling. The story seems to drag on interminably, too, with every possible situation included and analyzed by Lydia.
The themes of parental neglect, depression, addiction, loneliness and alienation will attract some readers to Queen of the Godforsaken in spite of the pre-technology, pre social media time frame.
Joan Marshall is a Winnipeg, MB, bookseller.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal
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other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.