And the question arises: what is the story of a life? A chronicle of fact or a skillfully wrought impression? The bringing together of what she fears? Or the adding up of what has been off-handedly revealed, those tiny allotted increments of knowledge?
Daisy Goodwill is a woman "arbitrarily named" and "accidentally misplaced." This novel is the chronicle of her life, but in the telling, many life stories must be revealed. Stories that precede Daisy's and are touched by Daisy's. All the characters are given their own rich lives, and sometimes Daisy is just a meeting place.
Carol Shields is a strikingly perceptive writer. I found myself reading certain passages again and again. Like this one: "How did this happen? She's caught in a version of her life, pinned there." And this one I really loved because it so sums up childhood through 30 for me personally: "She is overwhelmed at times-- and this is one of those times -- with the wish to ask forgiveness." (Boy, am I glad I've been released from that. Mercy and grace are good things.)
The novel starts with Daisy's mother and father and travels through the lives of them, and her neighbors, children, grandchildren, and a cast of other characters. This sounds like a lot of people to keep track of, but it's not at all confusing. While I didn't necessarily love all the characters themselves, I loved the book and its bittersweet telling of a life. (This book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1995, back when I was in the oblivion of early motherhood.)