Friday, November 13, 2009

Adventures in Toronto and other harrowing tales

Well, there are no harrowing tales, I should disclose that right up front. It’s just a trick to lure you into reading. (note to self. Maybe I should tell people it’s a trick later on in the blog, once they’re engrossed in the tale)

My sister, mother and I go on an annual trip to the William Ashley Warehouse sale. Half the fun is waiting outside in the tent gossiping and gabbing before you even get into the deals. It really is a lot of fun, and you can find a lot of your Christmas gifty and decoratey stuff there. As well as life size leather horses, and dishes.

This year’s trip, however, had a few another activity added on to it that made me terribly excited. I was going to a book reading by Robert J. Wiersema .

I read his first novel “Before I Wake”
probably about a year or more ago. I love this book, its one of the most amazing stories I’ve ever read. I borrowed it from the library, but then I was compelled to go out and buy it, because I couldn’t imagine not having it. I thought about writing a review, but I’m not good at them, yet, and I didn’t feel that I could do justice to it. So, this isn’t really a review, it’s just me gushing about the book. Here’s the blurb from the back cover.

Tragedy strikes the Barrett family when three-year-old Sherry falls into a coma after a hit-and-run accident. Her devastated parents, Simon and Karen, wait by her bedside, hoping for a miracle – one that doesn’t come. Told that she will never recover, they agree to remove her from life support. And then the miracle occurs. Sherry doesn’t die. But neither does she wake. Wiersema brilliantly weaves together disparate voices and sheds light on the inner lives of characters struggling against tragedy, finding each other, and themselves, in the darkness. In exploring how hope can be renewed in the face of unimaginable sorrow, Before I wake reveals the power of forgiveness, and the true nature, and cost, of miracles.

That gives an accurate description of the book. At the book reading, Robert (and I feel like I can call him Robert) said that he is a narrative writer. He’s not so concerned about the words that tell the story, more about the story itself. I have to say that I noticed that in this book. Sometimes, when I come across cool ways of expressing an idea in a book, I’ll underline it with pencil, and come back to it again. I didn’t do that in this book, I wasn’t distracted by cool phrasing, or unique sentences or any of that. Which is not a drawback, I was so caught up in the story, in the characters and their lives, that I read the story and believed it, and loved it. And I didn’t (couldn’t) take time out from reading to look for a pencil to underline something.

The way he depicted the parent’s relationship, I thought, was bang on. They came across as flawed, real, and sympathetic. (Even Simon, who I thought was a bit of a dick at first) The way they deal with the things they have to deal with, which could have been handled in a very heavy-handed, religious way, also came across in a very real manner. They were faced with a decision they needed to make, about how to deal with the miracles their daughter created. Robert described the novel as agnostic, and the parents’ decisions were made using that precept.

It was one of those books that you regret coming to the end of, because you’re not in it anymore.

Mr. Wiersema was actually there to promote his new novella, The World More Full of Weeping.

This is the blurb from Amazon, written by Jillayna Adamson.

Victoria local Robert J. Wiersema's soon-in-bookstores new novella The World More Full of Weeping, establishes an immediately-chilling mood before you've even opened it up.

That mood is set by its well-crafted cover - an eerie glow peeking through dark, fogged woods. It makes for a perfect introduction to the story, which wastes no time to reveal what will be a haunting tone throughout.

Eleven-year-old Brian Page is missing after wandering off into the woods behind his home. The story bounces back between the point of view of Brian's worried father and Brian himself. This is not your average story, nor your typical tale of a missing child. Once again (as he did with Before I Wake in 2006, which went on to be a national bestseller), Wiersema takes readers to a new and unnerving place, complete with spine-tingling chills.

Weeping is an immediately engaging, fully supplementing quick read that brings you back to the days of spooky campfire stories that go on to make for a sleepless night wandering around your own imagination. This novella is a refreshing break amongst the monotony of boringly average, everyday reads. It coasts along naturally with Wiersema's vivid writing, keeping you glued to the page.

Hearing him read his own words was wonderful. I always love hearing people read their own work, they know where they intended the emphasis to be, and they know how to speak their character’s voices. He also read from an essay that is included with the novella, which speaks about his use of a fictional version of a real place (his home town) as a setting for the novella (and other short stories, I don’t know about the availability of them). His reading of the essay prompted Offspring to say, on the way home. “Ok, now I’m confused about what an essay is.” Which, of course, forced me to actually think about that and give a reasonably intelligent answer. God I hate it when kids do that. I explained that an essay was a nonfiction piece of writing, which details and supports the author’s opinion and ideas about a particular subject. (I think that’s right, anyway. Seemed to satisfy her.)

It was terribly cool to have the editor (publisher) from Chiaroscuro Web Zine, sorry, I forgot his name, and the artist who designed the cover of the book, at the event. (I didn't get his name) Tres cool. I wish I had said something to the artist, because it is just so perfect.
I ordered a limited edition of this book, which includes the hard cover book, the essay, and a short story set in the same town. Haven’t yet received it, but when I do… oh my… ohhhhh myyyy…. I wish I had received it before the reading, but that’s ok. I did get Robert to sign my copy of Before I Wake. (Can I just say, I was just a little star struck. I had previously ‘friended’ Robert on Facebook, and when I asked him to sign my copy, he…. Oh yeah... he recognized me. “Monica, right?”, and them proceeded to sign the title page. Yep... that’s just how cool I am. ) (god I hope he doesn’t read this and get creeped out by me. Some people are gaga over rock stars. With me, it’s publishing stars.) This is when I absolutely thank Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee . The internet makes it possible for people like Robert (and Ben Esch, and Corey Redekop, and George Murray) more than esoteric celebrities, and turned them into real people, that you can actually have a conversation with. (when you’re not tongue tied)


Anita said...

Oh, man, that sounds like a fun trip. My mom-in-law lives in Buffalo and she's always trying to get the family to vacation in Toronto instead of NYC or a Florida beach area. I always roll my eyes, but maybe I should listen to the old bat.

I just ordered BEFORE I WAKE from the library...can't wait to read it.

Monica said...

did you, seriously? it's an amazing book.

Toronto is a wonderful place to visit. There is good theatre, lots of wonderful sights, beautiful city.

ChiZine said...

We're so glad you enjoyed the reading and had a good time. Rob is a great guy and talented writer and we're lucky to have him.

Our pulisher's name is Brett Alexander Savory and cover artist is the insanely talented Erik Mohr, who has done all the covers for ChiZine Publications.

Thanks for taking the time to blog about Rob and the signing.

ChiZine said...

And, do you mind if we link to your blog post? Would be great if others could see how much you love Rob's work.

Monica said...

absolutely you can link to my blog post. I've been telling people about his work for some time now, I think he's amazing.

Thanks for supplying the names i neglected to remember. Love your zine, btw.

ChiZine said...


If you love the 'zine, check out some of our other books. Free samples on the site.

Anita said...

I'm next in line to read the book...I'm crossing my fingers that I'll remember you recommended it, so I can tell you what I think of it...I'm always forgetting who recommended what to me...I've been trying to think of a system to keep track.

ChiZine said...

If you like it, or even if you don't, please post your comments here, or on Amazon or Chapters or B&N or someplace.

In any event, we're psyched you've got the book. Enjoy.