Saturday, December 27, 2003

About a week before Christmas, I discovered The Skating Pond by Deborah Joy Corey, a hauntingly poetic novel that examines the fourteen-year-old narrator's experience of the calamitous collapse of her family and her subsequent plunge into adult life. At first I was struck by the way Corey's lyrical descriptions sometimes overwhelmed her scenes, far beyond their capacity. The overwriting was compelling enough, however, that I read on regardless.

The narrator Elizabeth becomes a reclusive orphan and falls under the spell of an enigmatic man well into middle age. Corey's handling of her protagonist's sexual awakening is both mesmerizing and strikingly original. Elizabeth's teenaged marriage to a boy also blighted by tragedy is less earth-shaking but carefully wrought. The reappearance of the older man leads to a breathtaking climax that has both lovers poised on a precipice holding the potential of devastating consequences for all concerned.

Despite the Maine coastal setting, this novel's paperback edition, due to appear in February, will be published as a Vintage Canada edition. I realize that Corey was born in New Brunswick, and that her first novel (Losing Eddie) won a Canadian award, but she has lived in New England for at least fifteen years. Does this mean that the paperback will not be sold in the U.S.? In any event, the hardcover was sold here and is available.


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