Love Letters of the Angels of Death
By Jennifer Quist
$16.95, Linda Leith Publishing
Not surprisingly given the title, there is a lot of death in this book.
The story opens with a young couple sent to check on a mother who “hasn’t been seen in days.”
Their worst fears are realized when mom is discovered face down on the floor of her trailer home, having been dead for several days.
The narrator here is the husband of the young couple, and he’s speaking to his wife in a reminiscent style.
The woman found in the trailer is his mom, and this is the small town where he was raised.
At first glance there seems to be little grief at his loss, but mom’s been a bit of an oddball and clearing things away takes precedence.
It’s not until the wife sees the “coral sweater she always wore” that feelings surface.
Such seemingly small reminders mean everyday life has changed forever.
So Brigham and his wife arrange the funeral details, cremation, eulogy, interment of the ashes, all of it; the family comes, it’s over.
Except, of course, for the discussion between husband and wife, the pros and cons of cremation versus burial.
When the wife was 15-years-old, her grandfather died of a stroke. The loss is her first experience with death, and like a kid, she tries to grieve a grandpa she barely knew.
Mostly she remembers that the unguent he put on his old sore knees smelled like homemade root beer. Still she redeems herself when grandma, while mourning in her own way, needs help.
This novel describes the death of relatives left and right, in-laws and grandparents. Sometimes there are tears and grief, sometimes release, sometimes a realization that the relationship had suffered through neglect and the death meant less than it should.
There is always the service and the paperwork and someone has to do it.
The reader may wonder with all this death, what of yourself? Will there be a legacy of caring and sadness? Will anyone really care?
The married life of Brigham and his wife (we eventually learn her name to be Carrie) is the strength of this story. They share a warm, happy marriage, delight in their baby boys, and enjoy a repartee both humourous and opinionated.
Their move to Fort McMurray for work features some frontier scenes, frigid winters, trailer living, bush-fever and “tar sand beetles.”
Reminiscences do not always follow the calendar, so be prepared for a story that covers old ground, as memories surface.
The ending is perhaps predictable, death seems to be all around and ever present. When does it come even closer? This is an unusual and bold writing.
Jennifer Quist has written poetry and short fiction. She has had work published in The Globe and Mail, Maclean’s and Today’s Parent. She lives in Red Deer and this is her first novel. It is available at Chapters-Indigo and Amazon.
Peggy Freeman is a local freelance books reviewer.