Barbara Gowdy – Falling Angels

103. Falling Angels by Barbara Gowdy (1989)
Length: 199 pages
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Started: 1 November 2013
Finished: 4 November 2013
Where did it come from? From a Library Book Sale
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 11 September 2001
Why do I have it? I like contemporary fiction and Barbara Gowdy is a new author for me.

The year is 1969, and somewhere in an Ontario suburb, the Field family’s fragile domestic peace is slowly coming to an end. The three Field sisters – Norma, Lou and Sandy – are each just trying to find their own place within their very eccentric, often miserable, sometimes hilarious family. However, the looming shadow over all of their lives is the tragically suspicious death of the family’s first-born son – a secret which is never spoken of, but is nonetheless pervasive.

The Field household is ruled by Jim Field – a philandering, heavy-drinking used car salesman – who is keen on the militaristic discipline of his children, and on keeping up appearances for the neighbors. Despite his poor treatment of his wife, he is still oddly protective of her, insisting that his daughters watch her all the time.

His severely depressed wife Mary – a one-time dancer – has escaped into apathy and alcoholism a long time ago. Whenever her coffee cup is empty, her daughters rush to fill it with whiskey, for they realize she is living precariously in the wake of what happened to her baby son. 

Each of the teenage daughters has her own way of coping with her dysfunctional family. They try to make their own experiences while struggling with their family duties and concern for their mother. The eldest daughter Norma is the most responsible member of the family; quiet, subdued and selfless, she overburdens herself with domestic tasks and responsibilities, patiently putting up with her father’s antics. She is also the only one intent on keeping the memory of her brother bright, determined to discover the secrets surrounding his death.

The middle daughter Lou is the polar opposite of Norma. Lou fights for her autonomy within the family. She is the tough-talking, rebellious wild child; standing up to her father and loving her mother, even as she despises Mary’s weaknesses.

The youngest daughter Sandy is not as responsible as Norma, nor as rebellious as Lou. Sweet-looking Sandy devotes herself to becoming a perfect woman; with her own naive sense of femininity and sexuality. 

Each sister goes through her own rite of passage. They turn to drugs, sex, and schmaltzy fantasy – but repeatedly to one another. And, even after her death, the sisters still turn to their mother, and to the unusual love they discover their father still holds for her.

I must say that while this book dealt with some seriously dark issues, I found that there was a thread of humor running throughout the story that I could totally appreciate. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book – the story was well-written, easy to follow and the characters were sympathetically drawn. I give this book an A+! and look forward to perhaps reading more from Barbara Gowdy in the future.

A+! – (96-100%)         
Till we Meet Again, Glow Brightly as Moonlight


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