A Review by Beth Ryan Aitken
Like a movie that starts with a shocking scene, then widens its story to the larger picture, Newfoundland author Lisa Moore’s latest book, This Is How We Love, grabbed my attention in the first chapter.
In this opening chapter, one of the main characters, Xavier, is being brutally attacked. We see the attack through Xavier’s thoughts. He doesn’t really comprehend what is happening, he is trying to process what he is physically feeling. He cannot see his attacker; he is confused about his surroundings. As I read it, I found myself thinking, ‘Is this what it is like to go through something like this?’, an experience that I (thankfully) have never had.
Next, we transition to Xavier’s mother Jules, on holidays in Mexico, as she receives a phone call in the middle of the night. (That experience I have had and it is never good!) Her son has been attacked, is hospitalized, it is critical. She and her husband must make their way back to St John’s immediately. But Jules gets the last available seat on the plane and her husband Joe is left behind. Before Joe can make his way back, St John’s is hit with a once in a lifetime snowstorm, which closes down the city and delays his arrival even further.
As Jules keeps vigil at Xavier’s side, she recalls and replays family relationships, especially hers with her mother-in-law Florence. Florence was raised by a foster mother, as was Xavier’s childhood friend Trinity. All these relationships are intertwined, as they so often are in life, and give us as the reader deep insights to the characters. Despite moving between the present day and past recollections, the story kept me turning the pages to learn what happened to Xavier. Why was he attacked and by whom? We also learn more about Trinity, her complicated relationship with Xavier and Jules, her drug dealing partner, her struggle to turn her life around.
This is where Moore really excels. Her characters are so well developed, the circumstances of their lives ordinary yet unpredictable. Moore’s writing is tight, with minimal prose she can create strong images and describe emotions. For example, the way she captured Jules’s maternal determination fighting her way through massive snowdrifts to reach the hospital sent shivers up my spine. She uses dialogue to convey inner thoughts as well as conversations.
And without hitting you over the head, Moore demonstrates how we love. She delves into family, and extended family, relationships, not by preaching or expounding, but by gently letting her characters explore, define and come to conclusions. And she does all this while keeping you turning the pages, following the story, unravelling the mystery.