Welcome to the fifth and final stop on the Five Roses Blog Tour, courtesy of Dundurn Books and my fellow bloggers! We hope you have enjoyed the other stops on the tour (listed below) and that you have already been intrigued enough to pick up Alice Zorn’s latest about three women with unique histories who meet in an ever-changing Pointe St-Charles in Montreal. As much as story of place and loss as it is about the people, Five Roses will stay with you long after you close the cover.
Fara, Maddy and Rose are three women in transition, much like the neighbourhood where they reside. Each of them is struggling in some way – with their past, with their sense of self, and with where they might be heading. I found that I connected most with Fara and her determination to adapt to the new neighbourhood while dealing with residual feelings of her sister’s suicide. I found myself relating to her strength and determination, her sense of awe as she stepped into her new home and imagined all the changes she would make to create her own space. Perhaps it’s the act of moving into a new space that connected us, but I could relate to her dreams of making a solid home for herself and Frederic out of a space of tragedy. Her conversation and revelation of her sister’s final act is stark and heart-wrenching, as it reveals that all had not been perfect in her life. Her words make the reader pause to consider the powerful influences involved in deciding to end a life.
“… why was suicide an option for her? It’s not even an option. It’s the end of all options. What makes a person decide to do that? To people who are still alive that kind of decision just doesn’t make sense. …
You grieve for them. But you’re angry too. Because they didn’t just do it to themselves, they did it to you – and everyone they left behind.”
I particularly loved the relationship between Rose and Yushi, and how Rose become a more nuanced character due to their connection. Zorn’s descriptions are almost poetic in their sensory imagery, as I could hear Rose’s loom moving back and forth, and could imagine the texture of the fabrics between Rose’s fingers. The loom gave us an insight into Rose that I needed, as it was a hidden passion for her as much as it was a connection to her past. With Yushi, Rose found a counterpart – the yin to her yang. Yushi’s love of baking was given equal descriptive measure, with the tastes and scents of the kitchen lingering just off the page for the reader – deliciousness.
Point St-Claire, the community within sight of the sign for the Five Roses flour company is more than just the place setting for this novel. In a sense, the vibrant community of ever-changing families and ongoing gentrification becomes an additional character to the story, and is as real to the reader as the three women. Zorn has talked about how the sign and the neighbourhood have resonated with her over time; her knowledge of the area is so clear and detailed that I felt as if I could leave my front door and step out into its streets just from her descriptions. I felt that this love letter to this particular part of Montreal only added to the story, as I become invested in the neighbourhood as much as in the characters.
As much as this book is about Fara, Maddy and Rose, I also found that it was a story about the people who were no longer present: Maddy’s missing daughter, Rose’s mother, Fara’s sister and even Ben’s brother. Each missing person was another connection to the past, and gave us insight into each of the women and their past lives. As the secrets and stories of each missing character were revealed to us, the lost characters become more corporeal for us on the page.
As each character’s story began to expand, the story began to pick up in pacing. By the end of the narrative, I felt as if these women were my own neighbours, and that I might see them in the local grocery or at the post office. I was eager to find out more about them; as my time with them is finite, it makes me curious to explore the histories of the people around me more closely. As in the story, we are sometimes connected in the most tenuous of ways without realize it, and we come in and out of each other’s lives not knowing what impact we may have on others. Our connections may be fleeting, such as the woman who serves us bread at the patisserie, or more deeply rooted as with our next door neighbour.
A copy of Five Roses was provided by the publisher as part of this blog tour. It is available for purchase from your favourite bookseller. ISBN : 9781459734241, 360 pages.
Be sure to check out the other stops on this tour: