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February [Paperback]

Lisa Moore
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 1 2010

Winner of Canada Reads 2013 and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize

In 1982, the oil rig Ocean Ranger sank off the coast of Newfoundland during a Valentine's Day storm. All eighty-four men aboard died. February is the story of Helen O'Mara, one of those left behind when her husband, Cal, drowns on the rig. It begins in the present-day, more than twenty-five years later, but spirals back again and again to the "February" that persists in Helen's mind and heart.

Writing at the peak of her form, her steadfast refusal to sentimentalize coupled with an almost shocking ability to render the precise details of her characters' physical and emotional worlds, Lisa Moore gives us her strongest work yet. Here is a novel about complex love and cauterizing grief, about past and present and how memory knits them together, about a fiercely close community and its universal struggles, and finally about our need to imagine a future, no matter how fragile, before we truly come home. This is a profound, gorgeous, heart-stopping work from one of our best writers.

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Product Details

Product Description

Quill & Quire

Lisa Moore’s second novel, following 2005’s Giller-shortlisted Alligator, employs similar time and perspective shifts to paint a portrait of Helen, a woman shattered by the drowning death of her husband, Cal, in the historically true sinking of the Ocean Ranger off the coast of Newfoundland in the early 1980s. Now in her mid-50s and reconciled to loneliness, Helen sews prom and wedding dresses for a living and cares for her grandchildren. After having spent half a lifetime picking up the pieces after Cal’s death, she has taken the major step of renovating the house, and finds herself unexpectedly stirred by the presence of her carpenter, Barry. Another event has also rippled the relative calm: her son has announced that a woman he had a fling with is pregnant. February is not plot-driven: the back-and-forth chronology is meant to flesh out emotional landscapes and fill in historical details. Although Moore writes with an almost brash economy, she cannot prevent February from coming off as an overly sentimental love story. Cal was the great and only love of Helen’s life, and she spends the 25 years after his death rather tediously reliving their time together and speculating about his final moments. The predictable conclusion, where Helen and Barry come together at a fireworks display, merges past and present in heavy-handed symbolism: “the light flew into their faces as silent as something at the bottom of the ocean.” As well, Moore has embraced the current vogue for removing the quotation marks from dialogue, which has the effect of robbing the characters of their immediacy: they are always filtered through the narrator’s sieve. The book’s most unexpected, poignant moment features Helen sitting in a bar waiting to meet the man she has courted online over the past few months. When he never shows, Helen comes to the sudden, ego-crushing realization that he must have fled after seeing her. It’s a devastating, crystalline moment that would have worked as a short story – a genre at which Moore excels – but its impact is ultimately diluted by the novel’s amplitude. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


...exquisitely mindful...All is suffering, certainly, but it's just as true that all is also pretty funny. Moore gets this. She gets life...Moore offers us, elegantly, exultantly, the very consciousness of her characters. In this way, she does more than make us feel for them. She makes us feel what they feel, which is the point of literature and maybe even the point of being human. (Globe and Mail 20090901)

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pleasantly amazed April 15 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I read February two years ago and found that for me it was just about the best story ever--a lot to do with raising children on your own--it taken place over many years and is not sentimental though the premise is catastrophic. It was the normal events of everyday life that struck me as so realistic. It made me feel I hadn't done so badly after all. I recently ordered a copy from Amazon as wanted to give it to my grown-up children and also to reread it myself. For me a wonderful read!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautifully Told Tale of Loss and Grief Feb. 19 2013
By Alison S. Coad TOP 50 REVIEWER
Lisa Moore's "February" is a fictional work based on a real-life tragedy: On the evening of Valentine's Day 1982, the Ocean Ranger, an oil rig off the Newfoundland coast, sustained catastrophic damage in a winter storm and throughout the night and into the next day, slowly sank, killing all 84 men aboard. Moore has taken this event as the starting point in the tale of Helen, the widow of one of the men who died that night; at the time, she had three children ranging in age from 10 to 8, and she was pregnant with another child, so that in the following years, she had four children to raise on her own. The story ranges between the time of her marriage to Cal in 1972 up through 2009, and essentially tells the story of her life and how she does, and does not, come to terms with her husband's death and her grief.... The story is very specific to this one individual, but in such a way that the reader finds global resonance with the characters and what they go through. Anybody who has ever lost a loved one will relate to this book, and Moore's ability to describe complex and difficult emotions with both clarity and poetry is terrific. The story is not told in linear form, but jumps back and forth between various years, and that technique also works well in terms of drawing the reader into Helen's life; by the time the disaster itself is described, one is fully invested in Helen's reactions to it. This book won the 2013 Canada Reads challenge, an annual project from CBC that aims to have all of English-speaking Canada read one specific book; highly recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars February Lisa Moore Jan. 23 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Prior to reading Moore'e novel, I read the non-fiction account of the Ocean Ranger disaster which helped immensely. Moore immersed Helen and her family into that setting and she realistically unfolded the challenging life that resulted because of it. Moore allowed me to travel with Helen and her family through their varied challenges. Naturally Helen's challenges were central but John's, Cathy's, Lulu's and Gabrielle's had to be appreciated to understand fully the horrid effects of the Ocean Ranger disaster on one family .

On another level, this novel could be greatly appreciated by any widow who lost her partner when her children were still very young. Moore's handling of that situation was carried through well.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite new novel Oct. 23 2009
By V Woolf
I find this Moore's most compelling book yet. I've loved her short stories, her voice, her compassion, wit and humour. She's a writer's writer, and her language is fully alive. This new novel is just stunning, a heart-breaker, wise and very wonderful. Why on earth didn't this receive every prize there is? Wasn't even short listed for the GG, Giller, to my knowledge. Read this book. It will make your life better.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Solitude, she thinks, is a time-release drug... March 8 2013
By Friederike Knabe TOP 100 REVIEWER
"...it enters the system slowly and you can become addicted. It's not an addiction, it is a craft."

On Valentine's Day 1982, the 'Ocean Ranger', an assumed-to-be unsinkable oil rig, sank during a vicious storm out in the North Atlantic. Thirty years later the tragic events of that night still resonate deeply with the affected communities of Newfoundland. Families lost fathers, brothers, sons and lovers during a night when hope and prayers for a miracle turned into despair and grief: all eighty four crew were lost, either on board or in the ice cold water. Newfoundland award winning author, Lisa Moore's 2009 novel FEBRUARY fictionalizes the deep physical and emotional shockwaves in the aftermath of the disaster by telling the story of one widow, her profound grief and the long-lasting scars on her soul while putting all her energy into bringing up her family and healing herself.

Lisa Moore's heroine, Helen, thirty at the time of the disaster, was robbed of her husband Cal, the love of her young life, the breadwinner for their young family with three small children with a fourth on the way. Much of the story is set in 2008, yet with Helen's mind often wandering back to that fateful night in 1982, the innocent years prior to the disaster and the many years since. Helen reflects on her emotional state of mind at the time as "being outside": "The best way to describe what she felt: She was banished. Banished from everyone and from herself." Still, the daily life had to go on while grief and pain were kept locked into the inner folds of her mind. "Helen wanted the children to think that she was on the inside, with them. The outside was an ugly truth that she planned to keep to herself.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps I wasn't the target audience Aug. 13 2011
By Paolo TOP 1000 REVIEWER
On 15th February 1982 an offshore rig, the Ocean Ranger, whilst drilling an exploration well off the east coast of Newfoundland, sank in bad weather killing all 84 crew aboard. Their mayday call was picked up by the back-up vessel the Seaforth Highlander who were ill-prepared to deal with a rescue in such weather conditions and in the end they were left to watch the crew in the water succumb to hypothermia and drown.

In February 1982 Cal, the husband of Helen the main and unlikely protagonist of the novel, is aboard the Ocean Ranger. Helen has three children and is pregnant with a fourth at the time of the accident and as the story bounces backwards and forwards in time one soon grasps that there are three narrative threads in play. The first is of Helen's grief, contemporaneous with the accident and in the decades that follow. How she has to raise four children by herself and how she tries to learn every little detail about the sinking of the rig; she likes to imagine Cal playing cards when the Ocean Ranger goes down, she doesn't like to think of him knowing too long before and have to suffer the panic. Helen is also persuaded by her sister to renovate her house and the stirring of her physical and emotional desires by the continuing presence of Barry, Helen's carpenter forms the second thread.

Finally her son John followed Cal's footsteps into the oil industry first by working in the pipelines looking for weaknesses that could lead to leaks. John soon moves into a job as an advisor to the industry whose main role is to increase efficiency by making recommendations to discard unnecessary or redundant safety procedures, many of which came into force following the sinking of the Ocean Ranger.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Gripping story
Published 2 months ago by Jean McAllister
3.0 out of 5 stars Very depressing
I suppose it is well written but it tends to make one feel a bit depressed while reading it. Just okay for me.
Published 4 months ago by Robin Lady
1.0 out of 5 stars I've read two of Ms. Moore's books and liked neither
This book wasn't as good as it could have been. The characters didn't ring true. They simply came off as whiney. To spend 25 years dwelling in the past seemed far-fetched. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Pat Bingley
5.0 out of 5 stars February by Lisa Moore
Loved the book; excellent author!!! It was a quick read and very interesting! Would highly recommend this book to others!
Published 9 months ago by Susan Carrigan-Ralph
4.0 out of 5 stars FEBRUARY
I enjoyed the book very much but found the changeover from some chapters a little confusion.
The author is very thorough with her descriptions of the events and life as it was... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Paul Archambault
2.0 out of 5 stars Disjointed
I prepared to enjoy a tale of loss and putting your life back together again after a disastor. All I read were a series of barbs about how everybody let the main character down. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Dave the Rave
4.0 out of 5 stars Collateral Damage
Rather roiling account of the aftermath of an oil rig tragedy. How sudden such deaths affect those left to mourn. Portrayed are the classic stages of the bereaved. Read more
Published 11 months ago by murrie redman
5.0 out of 5 stars i LOVED IT
Published 11 months ago by libby
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, and real.
A wonderful read, and anyone who has ever experienced the East coast of Canada and the people who call it their home will be able to appreciate why you keep wanting to return. Read more
Published 14 months ago by anniet
2.0 out of 5 stars How on earth did it get short-listed?
There is plenty of scope for writing an interesting story related to the Ocean Ranger tragedy. How Ms. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Max
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