Rebecca Rosenblum certainly plays to her strengths as an award-winning, acclaimed short-story writer in her debut novel, So Much Love. The structure and style of it, where each chapter connected to the main character felt like you were reading connected stories, was terrific! And now, after closing, I’m truly left with this longing for more. I was wholly invested in every story, every connection, I could easily have read more!
Catherine Reindeer is taken from the parking lot outside of the restaurant she waitresses at, and kept for eight long-and-tortured-months. So Much Love plays out in two parts: 1.) the time where Catherine is missing, and 2.) the time after her return home.
Each chapter is a person connected to Catherine in some way, and how her disappearance impacts them. The viewpoints are from people like her professor, her mother, and her husband. Each chapter pulls you in deeper with their unique aspect to the situation. In part one, it’s the associations with her professor teaching the poetry class she’s enrolled in. We hear of his thoughts, his marriage, his teaching life, and in particular his class teaching about a young and local poet. This promising poet was killed by her boyfriend when she was same age as Catherine is now. We read about Catherine’s mother and her inability to cope with the disappearance, her guilt at returning to work, and her connection with Catherine’s husband, Grey. We then read of Grey’s struggle and pain.
What is really terrific, is that we also hear from characters such as the poet’s boyfriend, and the poet herself. The chapter from the viewpoint of the poet’s jealous and controlling boyfriend is absolutely chilling. The ending to this chapter. Wow. It was incredible how Rosenblum entered the mind of this jealous and controlling man and she embodied perfectly his disturbing mindset. Chilling I tell you! I’m still troubled by it. We even hear from Catherine when she is locked in a cold, dark basement. She is fighting to stay alive through incredible abuse, rape and neglect. Eight long months.
In part two, in the “After”, Catherine’s return is heavily weighted with loss and longing for the way Catherine was before she was taken. Both her longing, and those connected to her. She will obviously never be the same person before her capture. This part examines everything about the “after”, and we hear from her husband, her former co-worker, her mother, and from Catharine, on what life is like now that Catherine is back and how they moved forward from this point on. We hear of her husband’s despair at not being able to help her, his helplessness in only being able to watch her “stare at the air in front of her face“. Her mother and husband were so desperate to have her back, but she’s not the Catherine she was before.
“I wanted her to come back so badly, but I didn’t think it would be like this.” (Catherine’s mom)
This longing, including Catherine’s own, on this loss of a life from before, is profound.
“Grey used to make me feel warm and relaxed, eager to tell him everything I thought or felt. I dreamed of him every day I was gone – him hugging me to his chest, reading me stories in bed, telling me I’m beautiful. Now that I’m actually back, I feel like a ghost of my old self, haunting my life but not a part of it.”
I also absolutely loved all the little Canadiana sprinkled throughout – it was very subtly applied- not like product placements announcing/advertising themselves – but served up as they would be in everyday life. From the mentions of Shoppers Drug Mart to eating quarter chicken dinners from Swiss Chalet, they were just lovely touches grounding the story and situating it well.
I highly recommend So Much Love!