Sometimes, when I read books, I catch glimpses of myself. It’s as if someone has been spying on me and used bits and pieces of my thoughts, my behaviour, my characteristics, in a book they’ve written about someone else. It’s a mirror image that isn’t really one, but gives me plenty to think about.
This happened when I read “The Juliet Stories” by Carrie Snyder. Just published at the beginning of 2012, Snyder is a Canadian writer from Kitchener-Waterloo. My mom bought it for me when she attended the book launch in February, thinking there were already some interesting parallels between me and the author before she’d even read a page: both redheads, stay-at-home moms, writers, Canadian, female, actually distantly related…
The book is a novel-in-stories, written mostly from the perspective of a young girl named Juliet whose family moves to Nicaragua during the political turmoil of the 1980s. Her parents are peace workers – idealists, hippies, dreamers – who take their family into the midst of the revolution in order to effect change in the country. Interestingly, the story is focused on the home front, where Juliet and her siblings and mother live day-to-day in Managua, while their father travels to the war zone. Eventually the family returns to Canada, torn apart by a loss that occurs, and never recovers. They drift further and further apart.
I couldn’t stop reading. I balanced the book as I nursed my impatient, wiggling baby. I read at the table while eating lunch. I read on the floor while faking at playing blocks with the toddler. I read way past my bedtime and never even regretted it in the morning.
As I read, the similarities continued to jump out. Aside from the difficult family life, I know exactly how and what Juliet feels. Her descriptions of Nicaragua remind me of Brazil. Her love of writing and the uncontrollable urge to write constantly as a child is exactly how I was, and am still. She’s a redhead. She has an unexpected pregnancy at twenty-one. Her urge to explore, to push limits, to challenge, to demand answers are my tendencies, too.
Snyder writes prose as if it’s poetry – a skill I envy. You can see how she builds and shapes sentences not only for their meaning, but also for their beauty. It’s a great book, one that transported me to a rough time in Central America and to my very own childhood. Whether or not you will relate to Juliet as I did, it’s a great book that’s definitely worth reading this summer.