Narrator Coleen Marlo imbues Saving Gladys with the proper intensity necessary for a work brimming with strong female characters.
In Leona Gom’s novel, the eponymous character is the tyrannical manager of a Yukon lodge who terrorizes two young lodge waitresses, Elke and Kendy, in 1965. The story flash forwards to the year 2000, when Elke and Kendy reconnect and realize they still haven’t forgiven Gladys for her involvement in one horrific episode. The two plot revenge.
Gom has written a novel full of dark humor and insight into female relationships, and Marlo’s performance wrings out the laughter and pathos from every chapter.
Gladys Pratt was in control, the mistress of her own domain. In the 60s she and her husband were running a lodge in a remote area of the Yukon. Communication to the outside world was by mail, if it got out. Gladys was a tyrant. Deeply unhappy in her own life, she made life miserable for everyone around her - her house-keeper, her cooks, and the young women who worked as her waitresses during the summer months. Kendy and Elke were two of them - fresh out of high school and heading to university, they anticipated earning enough money to pay their first semester's tuition. Elke was shy and timid, new at waitressing and often the butt of Gladys's wrath. But Kendy was more confident and found the courage to stand up to Gladys, and for that Gladys's punishment was devastating.
Flash forward: Vancouver 2000. Kendy is a successful entrepreneur, and Elke a university professor. One summer day, Elke spots Gladys on the bus. She's shocked at seeing Gladys and struggles with the fierce emotions that threaten to engulf her. Elke seeks out Kendy; neither has forgotten their Yukon summer. Kendy thirsts for revenge and draws the reluctant Elke into a plan.
Hating Gladys is a story of conflicting emotions told from both Elke's and Glady's points of view. Their disparate voices weave a story of wit and irony, humor and anguish. Gom explores the damaged lives of younger and older women learning to deal with bitterness and betrayal, the destructive impulses of a dangerous hatred, and the treacherous but remedial ways of understanding and forgiveness.