Anakana Schofield – Award Winning Author of Bina, Martin John and Malarky

I am reading and considering Jane Rule’s The Young in One Another’s Arms: the references to housing, housing shortage, the tearing down of houses to make way for a bridge (and highrises) have a contemporary pertinence or are at least a lasting present day theme. My partner grew up in Kits, where the book is set, so I have been quizzing him about the where and how of these references at that time.

Another thing I appreciate about this novel is the multiple voices who are created through their dialogue with fairly minimal descriptions and how Rule juggles this effectively rotating their voices and blending them in and out in reply to each other and to us, the reader. There’s an interesting dissipating effect of this wider angle lens because we get just enough of each of them to create the rest. The incident where the American male character (draft dodger) is removed to the border reminded me so much of a similar removal of an Iranian friend some years back by Immigration Canada — it struck me in this remembering that each day in the city surreptitious removal acts take place unbeknownst to the citizens. I have seen the deportation van speeding up Cambie early mornings. They come early it seems to hurl people in and out.

I digress but that point on “removing and removal” leads me to reflect on an anonymity that is carefully crafted in this novel. The people all co-habit, thus far in what I have read, in a rooming house run by one woman Ruth. I was struck by how many people can live in Vancouver, yet they are somehow removed from the city, or anonymous to it. It’s a distinct quality (this distance) I’ve observed here. Whether it is the transitory nature of the place or what, people can live a longtime here yet the place doesn’t attach anything onto them. 25 years later they are still spectating it. It hasn’t necessarily gotten into their bones. Could it be they are replaceable? There’s always going to be somebody who desires to live in this particular arrangement of weather and scenery. In any case the fact is this novel captures something of the anonymous living experience.  If you don’t read the book carefully you may not pick up on it. But even in the way Hal (the brother) arrives and shunts Clara off to assisted living, rips her from her home and so on.

There’s more to be said, just some early sparks.

Leave a Reply