River Reel


238 pages
ISBN 1-894549-50-3
DDC C813'.54





Reviewed by June M. Blurton

June M. Blurton is a retired speech/language pathologist.


Helen had a miserable childhood. Her parents, Annie and Reg, never
talked to each other. After Reg dies, Annie buys a house in a farming
community in eastern Ontario and enjoys her retirement. Then she has a
stroke and Helen, an actor/director, comes to care for her.

Annie’s mind wanders, making “day trips into the past.” One day
she mentions Ewan, “the man I almost married,” and Helen is jolted
by the realization that with another husband her mother might have been
less angry and less of a control freak. Night after night, sitting
outside with her cognac and cigarettes, she thinks back over her own
life: a breakdown, theatre school in England, a disastrous marriage,
acting, and Bernie with whom she shares a house in Toronto.

While Annie sometimes finds it difficult to understand what is
happening in the present, she has no difficulty recalling the past: her
youth on a farm, living and working in a factory in wartime Montreal,
Reg and the children. Through it all runs the knowledge that Ewan was
the man she really wanted.

Helen and Annie are well-rounded characters, and the stories they tell
are fascinating. The voice that dominates the first two-thirds of the
novel pulls the reader in, giving an authentic feel of the times. The
writing in the last third is less gripping, but on the whole River Reel
is a delightful story.


Laing, Bonnie., “River Reel,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 22, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/17006.