Tag Archives: Emma Donoghue

Astray by Emma Donoghue

Maybe it’s the craziness of the season, but I’ve really been appreciating short story collections. This latest title from Emma Donoghue – the author of the phenomenal Room – is an intriguingly composed compilation: Donoghue presents a story introduced with a specific city and year, then gives the ‘ripped-from-the-headlines’ historical background that both explains and enhances her fictionalized narrative. Each is part of a centuries-old immigration journey, grouped together in three sections: “Departures,” “In Transit,” and “Arrivals and Aftermaths,” and in the final “Afterword,” Donoghue – herself Irish-born, British PhDed, currently Canada-domiciled – explains “why, on and off, for the last decade and a half, I’ve been writing stories about travels to, within, and occasionally from the United States and Canada.” [If you choose the audible version, you'll get a full cast of effective narrators, but the best reward comes at the end when you get to hear Donoghue herself read the "Afterword" – that leftover lilt is just soooo inviting.]

Like Donoghue who has “gone stray, stepped off some invisible track [she] was meant to follow,” her characters begin in one place and are driven out, run away, move to, or search out somewhere else. In “Man and Boy,” two “self-made prodigies” are willing to accept “[w]hatever Barnum offers” – yes, as in P.T. – and prepare to sail from London in 1882 across the Atlantic toward waiting audiences. A young woman living in 1854 London in dire circumstances in “Onward” finds a surprising benefactor (I hope you’ll be as tickled as I was to learn his identity!) who offers the possibility of a reinvented life in the new world. In “Last Supper at Brown’s,” a slave and his missus flee 1864 Texas, leaving the master “facedown in the okra” (not my favorite veggie, either!).

In “Counting the Days,” plans for reunion between a waiting husband in Canada and his Irish wife and young children are tragically thwarted. A lawless woman of the Wild West captures a wayward prospector, and acting as her own “judge and jury,” decides to return him to his family with a few adventures along the way in “The Long Way Home.” In “The Gift,” a destitute new mother gives up her daughter in 1877 and spends the rest of her life trying to reclaim her. The private lives of a 1639 Cape Cod community are transgressively revealed, then recanted in “The Lost Seed.” And, in my personal favorite, “Daddy’s Girl,” a young woman learns the true identity of her father only upon his death.

Harnessing her own searching spirit, Donoghue ventures through centuries and continents, across oceans and cultures, to present a unique collection of peripatetic characters, each ready to confront, challenge, or flee what life presents next. Be assured: Going rogue never read this good.

Readers: Adult

Published: 2012

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Filed under ..Adult Readers, .Audio, .Fiction, .Short Stories, Canadian, Irish, Nonethnic-specific

Landing by Emma Donoghue

Had I not been so enthralled with Room, I don’t know if I would have discovered Emma Donoghue‘s many other titles, but I’ve definitely been enjoying reading newly discovered authors’ works backwards.

Take a look at the cover and you can probably guess what Landing is about. Yup, it’s a love story. But with Donoghue at the helm, you have to expect some unconventionality at the very least.

So the hand on the left belongs to Síle (pronounced Sheila) O’Shaughnessy of Dublin, Ireland, and the right to Jude Turner of Ireland, Ontario. Síle may be Irish-born and bred, but with an Indian mother, she’s not quite Irish enough for some people. At 39, she’s spent many years as a worldly flight attendant, staying well-connected via her “gizmo,” enjoying a rather glamorous city life when she’s on the ground. At 25, Jude – also a hybrid mix, of a Canadian father and an English mother – is a technophobic Luddite, runs a small village’s tiny museum, and has never had the need or desire to travel very far.

The two meet on a plane over a dead body (!) … Síle working, Jude hoping to survive her inaugural flight (another !). How much more memorable can love at first sight be? In spite of thousands of miles, die-hard habits, missing mothers, past and present lovers, doubting friends, Síle and Jude slowly work their lives together.

Interwoven with the pitter-patter inducing love story is a mindful look at immigration (“emigration sounded noble and tragic, immigration grubby and grasping”), from peripatetic parents criss-crossing the globe to their stay-at-home progeny facing re-invention and relocation. Falling in love outside your comfort zone means borders change, populations shift, cultures adapt, racism threatens, and strangers can become family.

Just a final thought … perhaps Donoghue writes part of her own immigration story here: Like Síle, Donoghue is Dublin-born, and now lives with her partner and their children in … London, Ontario. Love can land you anywhere …

Readers: Adult

Published: 2007

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Filed under ..Adult Readers, .Audio, .Fiction, Canadian, European, Hapa, Indian, Irish

Room by Emma Donoghue

Room will leave you speechless. Listening to the audible version, pitch-perfectly performed by Michal Friedman, Ellen Archer, Robert Petkoff, and Suzanne Toren, is a chillingly addictive experience; even after you’ve turned off your device, you won’t be able to stop Jack from haunting you.

In spite of the book’s widespread media attention, its countless accolades and awards, I had few content details before I picked up the title for which I’m eternally grateful. In this case, less was absolutely more.

Here’s what I did know: a young boy and his mother are trapped in a small room, imprisoned by a violent man who snatched the mother off the streets when she was still a teenage student. The boy, born in captivity, knows only this room as his entire world, created for him by his inventive, fiercely protective mother who keeps him safe and happy at whatever cost.

Here’s what little else you can know: Jack turns 5 on the first page. Room is 11×11 square with a single high skylight. Ma has bad teeth. The unnumbered chapter titles are: Presents, Unlying, Dying, After, Living.

If you must have something visual to draw you in (although that cover couldn’t be more powerful), click here for the book’s goosebumps-inducing trailer.

To the credit of the superbly talented Emma Donoghue, Room miraculously proves to be funny, uplifting, affirming, even as it is wrenching, brutal, and every parent’s nightmare come true. Listening to Jack narrate what he sees, hears, thinks with such unguarded truth will make you wince, gasp, laugh, mourn, and ultimately believe. Enter Room … and see what happens …

Readers: Adult

Published: 2010

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Filed under ..Adult Readers, .Audio, .Fiction, Canadian, Irish, Nonethnic-specific