His Whole Life

His Whole Life

Book - 2015
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"At the outset, ten-year-old Jim and his Canadian mother and American father are on a journey from New York City to a beautiful lake in eastern Ontario during the last hot days of August. Over the next few pivotal years of Jim's youth, the novel moves from city to country, summer to winter, well-being to illness, as it charts the deepening bond between mother and son, even as their small family starts to fall to pieces. Set in the mid-1990s, when Quebec was on the verge of seceding from Canada, this captivating novel is an unconventional coming-of-age story that draws readers in with its warmth, wisdom, its vivid sense of place, its searching honesty, and nuanced portrait of the lives of a family and those closest to it." -- Amazon.com
Publisher: New York ; London : MacLehose Press, an imprint of Quercus, 2015
Copyright Date: ©2014
ISBN: 9781681444826
Branch Call Number: FICTION HAY 2015
Characteristics: 308 pages ; 24 cm


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Nov 20, 2017

I can't wait to reread this book in a few years. Even though personally connected to the geography and timeline I whole heartedly recommend it to others

SCL_Heather Jun 29, 2017

I absolutely LOVED this book. It is so beautifully written, I found myself pausing every few pages just to take in the language, often writing down quotes and sharing them with anyone in earshot.

I also connected to the timing of the story, set during the backdrop of the 1995 Quebec referendum which was around the time I came of age politically and, like Nan, I watched events unfolding in agony, fearing that my country would be torn apart.

I was also intrigued by the question that arose throughout the book, "what is the worst thing you've ever done?". It occurs to me that most of us have not done one truly horrible thing but in considering the question, the criteria we chose to determine our worst things says a lot about what we value. I have used this question to think about my own life and start conversations with other people around me.

I can't wait until Elizabeth Hay comes to speak at our library in October 2017.

Dec 05, 2016

This is a"quiet" book, gracefully written, with above all a compelling sense of place. Hay infuses with love those parts of the book that are set in the woodlands and lakes that those of us living in the southern fringe of central Canada colloquially refer to as "north" (although in geographic terms this is certainly not true north, that vast arctic and sub-arctic landscape that makes up much of this country). That lovingly painted setting alone is likely to endear the book to those of us who have shared that life experience and treasure it. Her accounts of life in Manhattan are, as to be expected, less atmospheric.
I seldom comment on titles but in this case I feel compelled to do so: The book covers a period of eight or nine years in the life of a boy. I assume her intent was to present those years as formative, which of course they are, but I still find the title awkward, not doing the book justice.
The boy, Jim is skillfully drawn and we get to know him very gradually -- even at the end we are left with the feeling that there are aspects of him that have yet to be revealed. The author clearly loves this boy very much and she wishes us to share that love.
The book is also about a marriage that doesn't really work and about the myriad tiresome ways that family members hurt each other, often seemingly without any coherent purpose. Therein lies stark realism, balancing the heart-on-sleeve lyricism that pervades much of the book ; Hay is no Pollyanna. Finally, the book is set in a very real and specific time, that of the Quebec referendum, a period that most of us would be just as happy to forget; but that too lends an air of authenticity.
Reading this book requires a bit of patience; excitement there is not. But it succeeds on several levels and merits four stars.

Oct 06, 2016

Enjoyed the Canadian content and the wonderful interaction of mother and son.

Sep 24, 2016

This I rate as a perfect book. Elizabeth Hay writes with great insight and compassion about ordinary people and the challenges in their lives. Highly recommended.

Jun 05, 2016

A simply written book about conflicting feelings and views about family and politics. Alternating debate about family relations, feelings, secrets, feuds, and Canadian politics watched by a growing ten year old boy. Humorous mocking passages about Canadians. Honest feelings, no false niceties, and still not bitter.

Jan 02, 2016

I like the way Hay writes about adolescent boys. enjoyed the inclusion of the Quebec referendum and the characters' differing opinions.

good book. worth the wait.

I have enjoyed all of Hay's novels.

Jan 02, 2016

89 people waiting for this book. It's not that good!! Read something else by this author instead - she's normally pretty good.

Nov 16, 2015

A wonderful book! So beautifully written and engaging. I will be sorry to finish it.


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