Sunday, 16 March 2014

The Age: a Novel by Nancy Lee

By Nancy Lee
Paperback, 288 pages

Wow. Gerry, the not always likeable character in this coming of age novel set in 1984 (contemporaneous to my own adolescence) is the only character that burns with the same deep shame complex that I felt at that age. (And, let's face it, still do sometimes.)

The emotion is raw. The writing original. The whole novel both hard to put down and sometimes cringe inducing. The way life is. Sometimes.

Gerry balances childhood and adulthood, vacant fathers and all too present step fathers, the desire to be good and be liked while searching out the bad and pushing people away. All while the threat of nuclear war looms large over her psyche. Her whole life.

A great book by a great new author.

From the back flap:

The Age, Nancy Lee’s electrifying debut novel, follows her celebrated story collection Dead Girls.

Set in Vancouver in 1984 as Soviet warships swarm the Atlantic, The Age tells the story of Gerry, a troubled teenager whose life is suddenly and strangely catapulted into adulthood.

Confronted by her mother’s newest relationship, confusion about her father’s abandonment, and anxieties about a looming nuclear incident, Gerry finds a kind of belonging with a group of misfits planning a subversive protest at the city’s upcoming peace march, but her fascination with their leader and her struggle with sexual identity create a rift between Gerry and her best friend, Ian. Bolstered by her grandfather, an eccentric news anchor in the throes of a bitter divorce, Gerry tries to put herself at the centre of the group’s violent plot. As the days leading up to the rally accelerate, Gerry finds herself escaping into a post-nuclear dystopia of her own creation.  Her real life and fantasy life alternate until a collision of events and consequences forces her towards life or death decisions in both worlds. 
At the heart of the novel is Gerry’s combative yet tender relationship with the older Ian, as she both yearns for and rejects his protectiveness towards her until it’s too late. Stubborn, tough, and unaware of her vulnerability until tragedy occurs, Gerry navigates a razor’s edge of emotion and events.

The Age is at once a heartbreaking journey through adolescent recklessness and desire and a portrait of a generation shaped by nuclear anxiety. Bold, original, told with piercing observation, mordant wit, and the same fearlessness that earned Dead Girls international acclaim, its arrival confirms Nancy Lee as one of Canadian literature’s most thrilling and compelling voices.

Nancy Lee is an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia Creative Writing Program. She lives in Vancouver, B.C., with her husband, writer John Vigna.

Lee’s first book of fiction, Dead Girls, was named Book of the Year by NOW Magazine, and was a finalist for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize and the Danuta Gleed Literary Award. Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies, as well as in the 2001 Toronto Life Summer Fiction issue. She was one of seven writers selected by Margaret Atwood for a special CBC Radio feature on new writers to watch, and a jury member for the CBC’s “Canada Reads” program for 2003. She is the recipient of many grants, fellowships, and writing awards, including the Gabriel Award for Radio.