Friday, March 30, 2012

The Juliet Stories (Carrie Snyder, 2012)

The Heroine: Juliet Friesen, a young Canadian girl living in Nicaragua with her peace activist parents in the mid 1980s. The oldest of her two younger brothers, Juliet feels like an outsider in her Spanish school and neighbourhood, and feels ignored by her passionate and wild mother, Gloria, and her charming, charismatic father, Bram. However, the Friesen's life in Nicaragua is brought to a halt when Keith, Juliet's younger brother, becomes ill with cancer, forcing the family to return back to Canada and driving a wedge into Gloria and Bram's marriage. The Juliet Stories chronicles scenes from Juliet's life from childhood to adulthood, documenting her journey as she grows with experience, time and reflection on her past.

The Highs: I really loved the plot behind The Juliet Stories. The journey of an expat family from Canada living in South America, particularly during a turbulent period in Nicaragua's political history, has the potential to be revealing, fascinating and deep. As a travel enthusiast myself, I really loved learning a little about Nicaragua through the story, especially since it is revealed in the author's notes that Carrie Snyder actually spent time living in Nicaragua with her family in order to do research for this novel.

I also really enjoyed the chapters in the novel that included the perspectives of different characters, such as the chapter told by Juliet's grandmother near the end of the book. The author has been really creative in crafting a large group of original characters, all interesting and realistic. Juliet especially reflects all the typical stages and crises that are usual during the evolution from girl to woman. I felt close to Juliet throughout the novel and was really hoping for a good outcome for her at the end of the story.

I should also mention that (though irrelevant) I absolutely love the cover of this book!

The Lows: While the prose style is extremely creative, beautiful and carefully crafted, I didn't feel that the overly descriptive, metaphor-stuffed style worked well in a story-telling capacity. At certain times I had difficulty understanding what was going on in the novel and I felt frustrated with my limited understanding. I also felt that the literary writing style almost served to keep the reader at arm's length, preventing them from really delving into the story. While I understand that a literary style can be beautiful and thought-provoking, I found it frustrating with this novel.

I also didn't appreciate the layout of the novel, written in short snapshots of various times in Juliet's life. I felt that important, interesting moments were passed by too quickly or skipped altogether, while less important moments were stretched out. Perhaps these scenes had some sort of metaphorical or emotional significance, but if that's the case, then the meaning went right over my head.

Final Thoughts: Fans of literary fiction, or authors such as Margaret Atwood, will absolutely love this novel.

Rating: The Juliet Stories earns five palm leaves out of ten. 

Buy 'The Juliet Stories' on Amazon here
Connect with author Carrie Snyder at her blog, Obscure CanLit Mama, here
Photo from here

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