In Visible Worlds, award-winning Canadian poet and playwright Marilyn Bowering has created a beguiling, multilayered novel that brings together two seemingly disparate stories as it traces the shattering personal consequences of war.
Visible Worlds begins in 1960, with the death of Nate Bone on a Winnipeg football field, as his family and friends stand by and watch. The story then shifts to the tundra of Siberia, where, at the same time, a young woman identified only as Fika is trying to make her way from the Soviet Union to freedom. As the novel unfolds, these two seemingly unrelated events--literally worlds apart--become key pieces in Bowering's astonishing fictional puzzle.
That puzzle is assembled by Albrecht Storr, one of twin sons of German immigrants, who becomes the primary narrator of the novel. Looking back to 1935, when he, his brother Gerhard, and Nate were children together, Albrecht slowly recounts a chain of extraordinary events set off when Nate, still suffering from the death of his sister, kidnaps an infant girl. That reckless, long undetected act leaves few lives unaffected, and will lead, a quarter of a century later, to Fika's remarkable journey across the spare, life-threatening, yet inconceivably beautiful frozen landscape.
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Marilyn Bowering's Visible Worlds introduces at least 12 characters, cuts from Winnipeg to Siberia to the North Pole, shifts back and forth in time from 1960 to 1934, and depicts three crucial deaths. And that's just the first 14 pages. There's more to come--much more--in this book that takes on the Great Depression, World War II, and the Korean War, exploring their effects on three improbably intertwined families. The plot's remarkable contortions are too labyrinthine to describe here, but suffice to say they involve meteors, Nazis, several dead, deformed, and abandoned babies, personal magnetism, labor camps, polar exploration, the Odd Fellows, circus performers, and lots and lots of snow. Like her fellow Canadian Michael Ondaatje, Marilyn Bowering is primarily a poet, and her background shows: in the book's lovely imagery, in its striking economy of language, and also, perhaps, in its greatest narrative shortcoming. Ranging over four continents and nearly three decades, Visible Worlds often feels overly compressed, as if it wanted to be a longer, more leisurely book. On the other hand, this lyric compression gives the novel an almost violent intensity. With its complex web of settings, time periods, and plots, often connected by the most tenuous of threads, Visible Worlds feels like a fever dream yanked straight from the collective 20th-century unconscious. --Mary ParkFrom Kirkus Reviews:
Canadian writer Bowerings second novel (after To All Appearances a Lady, 1990) memorably chronicles the toll taken by wars (the World Wars, Korea, and the Cold War) and random accidents upon three families whose lives sometimes mingle too neatly. Like Pat Barker, Bowering is claiming territory that has long been a masculine preserve: martial battle and its long-term consequences. The story of the three families here, and the events that associate or separate them, begins in Winnipeg in 1960 at a football game. There, Albrecht Storr watches as his childhood friend and neighbor Nate Bone dies. Moving back and forth from the 1930s to the '60s, various narrators relate the costs of war and linked catastrophes for the families (theres also a parallel story: that of Fika, a Russian explorer who in 1960 is making her way across the polar icecap to Canada, freedom, and the family she was yanked from earlier by the Nazis). The death of Nate's sister Lily led him to run away at 12 with a neighbor's baby; and, in the 1950s, to swap his own deformed baby for another, the deformities a result of medical experiments performed on Nate as a WWII POW; and, in the Korean War, to be branded a traitor. For the Storr family, the two World Wars meant the breakup of a marriage, the death of a German half-sister, and the loss of Gerhard, Albrecht's twin brother, who while studying in Germany joined the Nazi army, only to die later in a Soviet labor camp. The third family's two daughters also lose their children under tragic circumstances. Nate returned to Winnipeg in the late 1950s in a Cold War swap, and by 1960 new connections are established to replace those severed by war, death, or infidelity. A narrative high-wire act, as well as a subtle meditation on chance, luck, and inevitabilityfor all of which war offers the perfect if drastic laboratory. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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Book Description FLAMINGO, 1999. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 6551130