I've wanted to read this book ever since I read The Matter With Morris last year as part of my Giller Shortlist reading project. I loved The Matter With Morris; and while it didn't win the prize, I figured that this, an earlier book that had won the big prize, would still be a good read. Then Wanda's review over at A Season to Read was the straw that broke the camel's back and I went out to buy a copy.
I wasn't disappointed.
I read this book on the plane going to and from Paris back in July (no time while in Paris on a whirlwind weekend trip to do any reading), and it was perfect airplane reading for me. Entertaining enough to keep me interested; not so heavy that it was an effort to read even on a long-distance flight; and non-fluffy enough to keep me engaged and interested in the characters.
The plot is a bit hard to describe as it jumps around a bit between different times and places. A father tries to raise his children alone in the wilderness of BC after the death of his estranged wife; that same father returns to Vietnam in an attempt to come to terms with his war experience; a daughter travels to Vietnam trying to discover what happened to her father after he broke off communications. And above all, similar to The Matter with Morris, it is a book about relationships between different people, and the complexities that these relationships bring.
I love the title of this book. It implies a time in between the time that was before and the time that is to come. For Ada (the daughter mentioned above), it can refer to her time in Vietnam, in between her life in BC that she left and will go back to. For Charles (the father), it may refer to his time in BC raising his children, in between his experience fighting in Vietnam and his going back again as an adult. And for me, the reader, it referred to my time in the airplane, in between the origin and the destination. It has always struck me that time spent in an airplane is a bit of a blank time; or a time out of time. A time that must be passed through, but in which nothing of significance happens. And when I cross multiple time zones, that impression increases. I left Paris at noon, and arrived in Toronto 8 hours later at 2pm (only to find out that I had missed my connection and had to wait 6 hours for another flight to Thunder Bay); having read this book all the way across (except when I was napping).
My verdict? I really enjoyed this book, though not quite as much as The Matter With Morris. I didn't find that it packed the same emotional punch as TMWM; and I found that it ended on a pessimistic note, as compared with the overall optimism of TMWM. I am looking forward to reading more books by this author.