My great mistake was in being born the younger. No. Where I went wrong was in coming back here, once I'd got away. A person has to be ruthless. One has to say I'm going, and not be prevailed upon to return.

But how could I? (p. 13)

I'm wading through Margaret Laurence's A Jest of God.

I say wading, because I can't bear to sink into it and the loneliness of heroine Rachel Cameron.

Really, "heroine" -- so far -- is an overstatement. Rachel is so sad! Possibly depressed. She is a school teacher in her early 30s, living alone with her widowed mother in her hometown. She sleeps in her childhood bedroom, teaches in her childhood classroom, gets her hair done by the same dresser she's known all her life....

But here's what I like: It's bloody honest.

This is my second Laurence novel, first released in 1966. And yes, on the surface Rachel is a lovely martyr. But in her head, she's railing against her mother's bridge parties. She shakes her fist -- in her head, again -- at her smug married sister. She purposely turns a blind eye to children being bullied in the school yard, not because she doesn't care, but because she can't let them know she cares.

And she's evaluating the whole time. There's a bitterness to her character, but I match it to hope for a turnaround. There's a plot to come, yes? Laurence could not have written a Governor General's Award for ability to depress? And surely Margaret Atwood would not have written the afterword if Rachel turns out to be little more than the put-upon Anne Elliott of Manitoba?

I'll keep you posted. And then, I will start reading new book club selection The Year of Magical Thinking.

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