Natural Order

Natural Order

Book - 2011
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"Joyce Sparks is faced with the impending sale of her house and an uncertain future, she sifts through her past, dusting off unsettling memories of her son, John, and the secrets about him that she has kept hidden from her husband, friends and neighbours - and even from herself. When she discovers a horrible lie about a treasured childhood friend, Joyce's carefully constructed world begins to unravel, revealing the devastating consequences of choices she made long ago..."--Publisher.
Publisher: Toronto : Doubleday Canada, c2011.
ISBN: 9780385671538
Characteristics: 361 p. ; 22 cm.


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Jan 17, 2016

It's well enough written (mostly, except... uh?!), and it plods along at a reasonable pace, but there are absolutely no surprises here.
Except Author Brian Francis' obsession with bodily functions. For example, certain subjects make Joyce "physically ill", but really do you know anyone who actually vomits because they think for a second someone even their son is gay? Francis pulls this one out several times. And Joyce spends a lot of the time in the bathroom.

Joyce's "change of heart" which is telegraphed from 1000 miles away (it's sort of the point of the story) happens because she meets a man who... what? Maybe reminds her of her son? Except really we've no idea because this earth changing relationship is not only not explored in depth, it's barely shown. Joyce changes because we've reach the part of the story where she's caught up with herself in the present (it's told as a series of flashbacks) so in order to go forward something needs to happen. ( Ignore the hype pleading with you not to read the last 60 pages in public as you'll cry, hard maybe more than once. I cry at everything, I was moved some, sure but beyond that?)
A well intentioned novel but there are lots of mother/gay child stories out there that are better. (There is one interesting plot twist that seems both contrived and yet, somehow not only does it provide the most interesting parts of the book, I wonder if it's actually happened... indeed I though it would have made a better centre focus for the book. )
See if you can dig up Consenting Adult by Laura Z. Hobson (it's a bit dated but it was the first really positive novel I read dealing with homosexuality, family and growth.) Or try "In the Gloaming" by Alice Elliott Dark a devastating short story in the collection of the same name.

Sep 07, 2015

An excellent novel. Characters well drawn and compelling, plot line pulls you along to the end.

Mar 22, 2012

An indifferent story - a mother caught up in appearances to the detriment of her homosexual son. Since he died many years ago, she was never able to reconcile with him. A go-nowhere book. I'd not recommend it to anyone despite the hype of other Canadian authors whose books I've not read - nor would I, based on their evaluation of this one.

Kirbs Feb 02, 2012

Another brilliant novel from the author of "Fruit" So funny, endearing, and true.

Oct 26, 2011

A very sad story with some moments of humour, about an 80+ woman living now in a nursing home, and reminiscing about her life, mostly about her son who at an early age pursued 'girlish' interests.

Cdnbookworm Sep 24, 2011

This is a touching novel that explores a woman's feelings around motherhood, acceptance and regret. Joyce is in her eighties and living in a seniors' care facility. The appearance of a young man as a volunteer causes her to dig into her memories and think about the past. She thinks about the young man she had a crush on as a teenager and the sad end to his life she was told. She thinks about her own son, who died years ago, and her relationship with him. She thinks of the various times in their relationship that she had the opportunity to treat him differently than she did, and she struggles with the guilt she has over her relationship with him.
Through these memories and talking to the young volunteer, she finally admits the truth of her son's life and death, a truth she has denied even to herself for years.
This book reaches inward as Joyce sees how she failed her son even as she loved him and tried to do what she thought was best. Touching, honest and heartrending, this novel fills a void in Canadian literature.

Sep 13, 2011

Fantastic. I laughed and cried.

debwalker Sep 10, 2011

"there’s a lot to like about Natural Order. There are chapters-long blocks of good, sharp, vivid writing, and long sections, especially in the nursing home, in which Joyce is perfectly convincing. The story regains its focus in the final third, and when he hits the emotional high notes, Francis never wavers. In fact, if you value your dignity, I implore you not to read the final 60 pages in a public place: You will cry, hard, probably more than once."
Wendy Banks
Globe and Mail

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