There's something about Carol Shields' books that I love so much. Perhaps it's because of the things she writes about in the books are things I like or am familiar - quilting, and sewing, gardening, literature, academia. I'm currently re-reading Happenstance where the wife, Brenda, goes to Philladelphia for a Craft Conference and shows off her quilts. Possibly, it's just a continuation of my current desire to get back into making things, but her writing also illuminates many of the things I am drawn to. The way she talks about the fabric and shapes of the pieces in her quilts, or the connection to her stitches. Apart from the crafty-talk, there's the way this woman examines past experiences, her doubts and confusion, her body, her desires... I feel like I'm coming home when I open one of her books.
Larry's Party is one of my favourite books as well, the way she writes about his connection to the landscape, and his mindful musings on his garden mazes. So beautiful. It's funny, but as I think right now, I don't often read books where the protaganist is male, but I love Larry (even though he's such a loser in so many ways), and I love Jack in the other half of Happenstance (kind of two novels in one). They are so vulnerable, so bewildered, and so tender while also being everything else. I love that. I love the "awakenings" that the characters have as well - they are so human, and so beautiful. It's often just a moment, or an understanding, usually something small, that triggers a wonderful awareness in the characters. Even though they continue with their lives, often continuing in much the same way, they are different, often happier. When I think back to the characters after I've put the books down, I can't help but smile and think of the tenderness of life, how confusing and disruptive and changing and painful and beautiful it all is.