Monday, September 7, 2015

Ithaca by Susan Fish, reviewed by Lindy Mechefske

Ithaca is a story about soup, fracking, and fifty-nine-year-old Daisy Turner who has recently lost her husband. A curious combination. And yet, somehow it works. And not only does it work but months after reading Ithaca, the characters, the plot, and even the details remained with me – a rare staying power –  surely one of the  hallmarks of great writing.

Daisy is a woman who devoted her life to others – to her son now living overseas, to her late husband and his career as a geology professor, and to building and nurturing community. 

She was the quintessential good wife but when she finds herself grieving and largely alone in the world, her world shrinking daily, she enrolls in a university course on fracking  a logical enough step for a woman who has a vicarious knowledge of geology having spent a lifetime alongside a man who dedicated his existence to the subject. 

Daisy also continues a longstanding tradition of hosting Wednesday night soup suppers for her husband’s colleagues and their families.

There’s an interesting parallel between the shaky ground that Daisy finds herself standing on when she is left a widow after thirty-nine years of marriage and the destabilizing and potentially devastating effects of fracking – the process of drilling into the earth and injecting water, sand, and chemicals under high pressure to force gas up from beneath. Shaky ground indeed.

Slowly, almost imperceptibly, Daisy’s life begins to expand. She makes new friends, she   begins to figure out her own path, and she starts to find herself in a brand new role – that of activist. A polite and gracious activist but an activist nonetheless. Daisy is on a voyage of self-discovery.

Ithaca, like Daisy, is quiet and charming. It’s also timely. And though Fish didn’t include the recipes for the Wednesday nights soups (each chapter is named for a soup) I loved the supporting role that food played in this book. Initially I thought the recipes should have been included but later I realized that not including the recipes added to the charm. It just made me think a bit harder. I wish Daisy were real, I’d be honoured to know her. And I’d like to attend her Wednesday night soup suppers too.

Ithaca, self-published in 2014, is available on in both paperback $13.14 and Kindle $3.79 here.

Lindy Mechefske is a Kingston-based freelance writer and author. Her recent work has appeared in the Kingston-Whig Standard, the Ottawa Citizen, the Queen’s Alumni Review, Kingston Life, and Toronto Now. Her new book, Sir John’s Table: The Culinary Life and Times of Canada’s First Prime Minister, published by Goose Lane Editions, came out September 1, 2015. Read more about Sir John's Table and even buy a copy here.

Note: Lindy will be promoting Sir John’s Table extensively. Check out the list of her speaking engagements hereAnd for information on submitting to Goose Lane Editions, see here.

See Brian Henry's schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Barrie, Bracebridge, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Collingwood, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Newmarket, Orillia, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Saint John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Halton, Ingersoll, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

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