February is Lisa Moore's heart-stopping follow-up to her debut novel Alligator, winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for the Caribbean and Canadian region. Propelled by a local tragedy, in which an oil rig sinks in a violent storm off the coast of Newfoundland, February follows the life of Helen O'Mara, widowed by the accident, as she continuously spirals from the present day back to that devastating and transformative winter. After overcoming the hardships of raising four children as a single parent, Helen's strength and calculated positivity fool everyone into believing that she's pushed through the paralyzing grief of losing her spouse. But in private, Helen has obsessively maintained a powerful connection to her deceased husband. When Helen's son unexpectedly returns home with life-changing news, her secret world is irrevocably shaken, and Helen is quickly forced to come to terms with her inability to lay the past to rest.
An unforgettable glimpse into the complex love and cauterizing grief that run through all of our lives, February tenderly investigates how memory knits together the past and present, and pinpoints the very human need to always imagine a future, no matter how fragile.
The word that kept coming to mind as I read this book is "elegiac", although the main character, Helen, is not dead. The story picks apart the life of Helen, whose husband died aboard the oil platform the Ocean Ranger in 1982, leaving her to raise four children -- one still in the womb. Although it is fiction, it feels so true. The life is like a broken mirror, each shard reflecting the light sometime bright, some dark and tinged with blood. The prose is beautiful, her descriptions of the everyday and the ordinary bring those things into such sparkling focus that at moments it can hurt the eyes.
There is a section in the middle, where the heart of the story seems to drown in her own clever writing, but she pulls back from that toward the end and brings the story into focus. On the whole, a beautiful book. It reminds me somewhat of Colm Toibin's Brooklyn in the sense of tracing a little life, but I think this is better. A worthy winner of Canada Reads 2013.
The reader is really breathy but the story was pretty good. It's on the sad side but worth the read.