Friday, June 01, 2012

New Today: Magnified World by Grace O’Connell

Much is made of the zircon stones used by the protagonist’s mother in Magnified World (Random House Canada) in order to kill herself. She fills her pockets with them, then wades into the Don River, weighted down like some new age Canadian Virginia Woolf.

Her daughter, 23-year-old Maggie, is left bereft and ill-prepared to cope, despite the fact that, after the death, Maggie opens the family’s New Age shop, deducts the zircon stones from the ledger and gets on with life, business as usual.

Only not. Maggie’s blackouts start almost immediately. The doctor attributes them to grief and prescribes more iron in an improved diet. Around the same time, a mysterious stranger named Gil makes himself known. But is he real or the product of Maggie’s grieving imagination?

Clearly, grief is the subtext here. More than that. Grief lingers on almost every page: how it arrives, then takes over, permeating every aspect of Maggie’s life. To be clear of it, she must make some decisions that seem even crazier than she feels.

While there is magic in Magnified World, it is not the book it could have been. The grief that overwhelms the novel has a sameness to it and the intensity of feeling that is implied never really makes it beyond the page.

For all that, Magnified World is a satisfactory first outing, even if not on a par with some of its New Face of Fiction alumni from Random House of Canada. The program, now in its 16th year, has graduated an impressive class that includes Ann-Marie MacDonald, Yann Martel, Gail Anderson-Dargatz, Timothy Taylor, Ami McKay and others whose first novels were launched through the New Face of Fiction program. ◊

Sienna Powers is a transplanted Calgarian who lives and works in Vancouver, B.C. She is a writer and conceptual artist.

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Anonymous Teena in Toronto said...

I finished it tonight and enjoyed it, though I found it a bit confusing.

Thursday, June 28, 2012 at 8:05:00 PM PDT  

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