Wednesday 5 December 2018

His Whole Life

Finished November 18
His Whole Life by Elizabeth Hay

I read this for my book club, and enjoyed it more than most of the club members. It was a bit of a slower read than others of her books that I've enjoyed.
The book centers around a boy, Jim over a period of several years. It begins when he is ten years old. Jim's mother Nan is Canadian, and takes him to Canada for part of every summer to the house on a lake where his uncle and aunt and their dog Duke live. Jim asks a question on this trip, "What's the worst thing you've ever done?" and that question comes up several times throughout the book, as does the idea of forgiveness.
Jim's father George is a man given to resentment. He doesn't seem to enjoy being at the lake, which is something that feels good to Nan and Jim. By the following spring, even Jim can see that his parent's marriage is in trouble, and he and his mother spend extended time at the lake, and his mother is reunited with her childhood best friend Lulu. Lulu has her own issues, with family and with alcohol, and yet she and Jim grow to be friends as well. As we follow Jim over the next few years, we see more closely the relationship between his parents, between his mother and Lulu, and between his older half-brother Blake, from his mother's first marriage and the rest of his family.
Jim, as effectively an only child, despite having older half-siblings on both sides, lives in the adult world more than most kids, and we eventually find out the action that led to that question in the car trip at the beginning of the book. He has become a boy with few friends, a boy who is comfortable in surroundings that his classmates are not. He lives a bit apart from others.
There are lots of themes here: motherhood, forgiveness, our relationship to nature, and I found myself stopping more often to think about what I was reading.

1 comment:

  1. I find Elizabeth Hay's books sneak up on one, and I thought this was an excellent example.