BEYOND THIS POINT by Holley Rubinsky (McClelland & Stewart), 304 pages, $24.99 paper. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Holley Rubinsky pushes her terrific characters to the brink. It's too bad she's not quite sure what to do with them once she takes them there, especially since she's titled her book Beyond This Point.
Her very strong debut novel zooms in on women coping with various traumas: Kathleen's husband has just dropped dead in the bedroom; Mory's getting on with her life (sort of) after years of being sexually abused by her father; Bet can't bear what's happening to her daughter and is getting no support from her partner; Lucinda's had enough of her guru husband's womanizing; Lenore's marriage has ended abruptly, and she's left with her distressingly unmotivated stoner son.
They all descend on a small BC town, each with her own desires and fears, which veer increasingly out of control as the novel unfolds.
Rubinsky's insightful approach to character development keeps us acutely attuned to her cast's growing desperation. No matter how outrageously these women behave, they never lose our sympathies.
Rubinsky also makes the most of the BC setting, vividly evoking the sometimes terrifying woods, the vibe of a healing retreat or the scarily isolated cottage belonging to hippies whose lives have gone off the rails.
But such a superbly constructed set-up demands a stronger payoff. The reader feels something huge is going to happen, or that the lives of these fascinating people will converge somehow, somewhere. But that never really happens. That's life, perhaps, but not necessarily satisfying fiction.
Still, this is a compulsively readable book and an impressive first novel. Can't wait to see what comes next.