Summary: A collection of short stories about gender inequality, coming of age, and complex familial relationships written by classic Canadian writer Budge Wilson.
Number of Pages: 161
Age Range: 17-18
Review: I want to pick a favourite story but it’s impossible to do. I enjoyed “The Metaphor” because it fondly reminded me of my own seventh grade experiences with my English teacher Mr. Miller. “Mr. Manual Jenkins” confused me. “The Leaving” made me think about gender roles and the right everyone has to being treated with respect. “My Cousin Clarette” made me want to cry. “Be-ers and Doers” made me want to stand up and cheer when Albert finally had it out with his mother! And “The Pen Pal” provided some comic relief. Wilson manages to explore the entire array of human emotions in this collection.
Suffice it to say that throughout all of her stories, Wilson demonstrates a deep understanding of different relationships and the complex nature of being a girl/woman while also writing detailed depictions of the Canadian landscape. (A skill I’m growing to realise is essential to classic Canadian literature.)
I’m not sure I would classify this collection as being for teens exactly, but reading it does make me want to track down my high school Canadian Literature teacher and demand to know why I had to read Margaret Laurence when I could have been reading Budge Wilson.
As Wilson herself writes through the voice of Elizabeth, “She was a real troublin’ book. But she was good.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
“I cried some more that day and excused myself from supper. I heard my father say, ‘I think I’ll just go up and see if I can help.’ But my mother said, ‘Leave her alone, Arthur. She’s sixteen years old. It’s time she learned how to cope. She’s acting lika a hysterical child.’ My father did not appear. Betrayal, I thought, runs in the family.” – from “The Metaphor” in The Leaving by Budge Wilson, page 18
“And I’m here alone. No one can see what I’m saying or how I’m saying it. But that’s the crazy part. Even when I’m alone, maybe especially when I’m alone, I sit in judgement upon myself. I am my own judge and jailer.” – from “The Diary” in The Leaving by Budge Wilson, page 21
“Meredith does not rant and rave like Father. This quality is what drew me to him in the first place. I did not then realize that anger has many faces, and that there are a lot of subtler forms of violence and violation.” – from “The Diary” in The Leaving by Budge Wilson, pages 32-33
“A lot is said about the value of strong, silent men. Me, I think that men who are silent about things that matter just don’t have the strength to say what they really feel.” – from “Mr. Manuel Jenkins” in The Leaving by Budge Wilson, page 51
“We walked quickly through the night. North and South Mountains closed off the sky behind us and far ahead, but a full moon made it easy to see our way on the frosty road. The hill country was full of scrub growth, stubby spruce, and sprawling alders, unlike the tidy fields and orchards of the Valley. But the frost lent a silver magic to the bushes and the rough ground, and the moonlight gave a still dignity to the shabby houses.” – from “The Leaving” in The Leaving by Budge Wilson, page 85
“I could hardly believe it. My ma didn’t even read recipes. She kept them all in her head. I asked, ‘Was it good?’
She thought for a moment before answering. ‘She was a real troublin’ book. But she was good.’
I couldn’t understand that. ‘If it was so troublin’, why was it so good?’
She answered that one without hesitation. ‘Found I weren’t alone,’ she said.” – from “The Leaving” in The Leaving by Budge Wilson, page 90
“‘All along I bin blamin’ men fer bein’ men. But now I see that oftentimes it’s the women that makes them that way.'” – from “The Leaving” in The Leaving by Budge Wilson, page 94
“I do not have the courage to stand up to Clarette and tell her to stop tormenting me. I am afraid of her retaliations. But deep inside, I can feel something solid in the core of me, which I know will prevail. This is what keeps me going, what shelters me during these long months of invasion.” – from “My Cousin Clarette” in The Leaving by Budge Wilson, page 107
“I’ve seen the razzle-dazzle colours of the low-lying scarlet bushes in the fall, blazing against the black of the spruce trees and the bluest sky in the world. I’m familiar with the way one single radiant summer day can make you forget a whole fortnight of fog – like birth after a long labour.” – from “Be-ers and Doers” in The Leaving by Budge Wilson, page 145