A little Homer''s Odyssey and a little Jack Kerouac''s On the Road, Karen McLaughlin's second novel makes you travel from coast to coast in a two-toned burgundy Buick Skylark bequest to her main character, Robin Gallagher, by her mother-in-law, Muriel.
The old car, in shipshape outside, is 'time-hardened' inside'-or rather, corroded by the salty sea air. "''I''m driving a metaphor, Muriel. Imagine that,'" says Robin.
And that''s what Robin does all the way from New Brunswick to British-Columbia: talk to her indomitable mother-in-law, queen of the church functions, paragon of respectability, and beholder of moral truths and petty secrets. Robin's mistake was to think, as a young woman, that she could replace her own inadequate mother with this one, and swap her whole dysfunctional family for a brand new one by marrying Muriel''s only son, Jamie.
Oh yes! We're in for a good ride, from sea to sea with everything that lies in between, each chapters of Robin's life as she gains momentum and learn the secrets hidden behind even the most upright citizen, and the litany of self-pity born from a life not lived but endured.
"''I'm beginning to think that endurance is an overrated quality,'" Robin thinks out loud somewhere between Thunder Bay and Winnipeg. ' "Only survival is expected under this precept. Not flourishing.'"
This could have been a banal tale in another writer''s hand, but it''s not. It's gritty and almost painfully true, with sentences that falls like nails to crucify whatever illusions Robin still harbors. Like this one, my favourite: "'I thought I'd weigh much less with you dead, Muriel.'"
From A Distance sometimes feels so intimate that this reader, although unable to put the book down, also felt she should stop peeking through the keyhole.' A funny, highly unusual, and ultimately enlightening read 'because unlike Homer's or Kerouac's, this is a woman''s journey.