Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Sitting Practice by Caroline Adderson

This book is over 10 years old, but it was recommended by CBC Books as a Canadian title that should not be missed so I thought I would give it a try.

While I wouldn't say it was fantastic, it was fairly interesting.  The novel centres around Ross and Iliana Alexander.  Three weeks after their wedding they are in a car accident which leaves Iliana paralyzed.  Ross, who was driving and had asked Iliana to retrieve a tennis ball that was rolling around causing her to temporarily remove her seatbelt, is unhurt and wracked with guilt.

The start of the book is in the few months following the accident while the couple still lives in a Vancouver apartment.  There we meet many of their elderly neighbours as well as Ross's twin sister and nephew (she's a single mother) who are very dependant on him.  There are also flashbacks to the wedding as well as one visit to Iliana's parents, who are strict fundamentalist Christians.  Through these flashbacks as well as stories told by the neighbours we learn a bit about the couple's past.  Ross had a happy childhood, was very close with his parents and sisters and dotes on his nephew.  Before he met Iliana, he was also a womanizer.  Iliana on the other hand had a strict and sheltered upbringing and was a virgin when she met Ross.  Her parents do not approve of Ross and refused to even attend the wedding.

The second part of the book takes place two years later.  Ross and Iliana have moved to a small town on Vancouver Island and are operating a restaurant.  While Iliana seems to have adjusted to her new wheelchair bound life, Ross is still struggling with his guilt.  More damaging to their marriage, however, is how he finds himself repulsed by certain aspects of Iliana's routine (such as a catheter).  As such, the physical component of their marriage has not resumed.

So much of the narrative is seeing how the couple copes with each other, Ross's sister who decides to move to the island (or is encouraged to do so by Ross) and Iliana's decision to have an affair.  It is an interesting  study in how a couple can learn to cope with a physical challenge early on in their relationship, particularly when one partner feels responsible for what has happened.

At times the narrative drags a bit, but in all this is an interesting book.

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