Weathering by Lucy Wood
As reviewed by Lynn M. Piotrowicz
I remember with startling acuity the red scarf flittering in the snow of Mary Lawson’s Crow Lake. I can still feel the raw cold wind on my face, the weight of my winter outerwear and boots as I trudged through the deeply drifted snow approaching that red flag in the pristine field of white, the anxious foreboding Lawson created with masterful tension. The power of that image has stayed with me for over 15 years. When I started Weathering by Lucy Wood I experienced that same transcendence, knowing that another author would mark a notch in my literary noggin.
A main character in Wood’s book is the river just beyond. The story begins with a narrative by someone who obviously loves the river but is perhaps deceived by its cunning. The far-reaching power, the uncontrollable nature, the flotsam creating a logjam of deterrents, the jetsam accumulating ugly obstacles along its shores. Weaving itself through the lives of Pearl, Ada, and Pepper the river represents a place of rest, retreat, joy, frustration, patience, pain, and healing. Wood makes us feel the cold water that is wicked up by our shoes and socks as we walk through its shallows as well as the shiver of the head first plunge into it. The river is an ecosystem unto itself and as such, it is a powerful metaphor for life.
Another major character in the story is the cabin. A listing on Zillow or Trulia would characterize it as “charming fixer-upper with lots of potential.” The reality, the cabin is cold, drafty, and falling into an irreversible state of disrepair. It could best be called primitive, unloved, and unwanted. As a leading character it has to ingratiate itself into the heart of its residents, warts and all. The cabin uses the river just beyond to draw in Pearl, Ada, and Pepper. “We won’t be here long,” is a sentiment repeated by those who find themselves within its grasp. Wood weaves the domicile into their hearts, finally resolving that even though the house is in many ways a last resort, it becomes a home when it is embraced as such.
Finally, much like what Sue Monk Kidd did in her book The Secret Life of Bees, we meet three generations of a family: grandmother, daughter, child. The elder generations have made mistakes and had to seek forgiveness – from each other but most importantly they had to forgive themselves. The child represents the virginal optimism one gets when something is new; a willingness to go with the flow, curious about the world, and wanting to master their surroundings. Reconciliation is only possible when each generation learns to embrace the river, the cabin and the family. The only way to heal the wound is by reflecting back and/or projecting forward.
Weathering gave me the gift of memories. I have stood by, next to, or within many bodies of water throughout my life. I remembered the shoreline of Lake Erie, the brooks and eddies of Slippery Rock, the rhythmic hypnotic rocking of Conneaut. My youth and early adulthood was spent along many streams in northwestern Pennsylvania in a quest for the elusive rainbow trout. Wood gave me the chance to feel the cold off the water as well as the air. I can close my eyes and see the knot of tree branches that I inevitably tangled my tackle in. I can smell the musk of punky wood that washes ashore or the tang of the fish that swiftly leaves my hand swimming back into the water. I can hear the roar of the lake, especially in winter when the sound waves are magnified off the massive ice dunes along the shore or the whisper of cracking ice when the world is calm.
Wood creates an allegory which speaks to the core of our existence. We must weather the storm while life weathers us. Thank you Lucy Wood for providing me the opportunity to revisit the shores of my past and for making me think that I should carefully consider the future of my remains or what remains of my future.