Picks and Pans Review: Marine Life
An interlocking though not chronological series of short stories, Marine Life is a wonderfully observed portrait of a Vancouver blue-collar family, most specifically the family's youngest member, Adele Nordstrom.
Adele plays chaperon to her drifter alcoholic hall brother, Ray, companion to her half sister, Joyce, an abused wife, and confidante to her mother, June, a sometime cabaret pianist who believes that a bad marriage is preferable to no marriage. So it would seem. She's on husband No. 3, a loudmouthed, philandering vulgarian.
Water imagery flows through Marine Life—turtles caught in the tide, a run through sprinklers, a senior citizen swimming class, a suicide jump off a bridge—yet the imagery never seems contrived. The two pieces that stand out most sharply—and most chillingly—center on Adele and her rather too pretty, treacherous stepsister, Louise, and on Adele and her own inadvertent treachery toward her niece and terminally ill half sister, Irene. Svendsen never fails to make (dear that, however unintentionally, home is where the hurt is. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $17)