Lilith Boot, the main character in Elizabeth Ruth's first novel, Ten Good Seconds Of Silence, wins the prize for this year's most unlikely superhero. She's a psychiatric system survivor, single mom and psychic who locates missing children for the Toronto police force.
Lilith's definitely not the kind of mom who keeps up with the Joneses. She's obsessed with a little boy named Benjamin who went missing years ago. Despite regular visits to Allan Gardens, where her psychic ability is strongest, she's been unable to find him. She's not interested in men, and maintains that her daughter Lemon is the product of immaculate conception -- Lemon grows up without knowing a single thing about her father.
Our heroine's most anti-stereotypical asset is her rather large girth, which is constantly increasing due to the junk food she unapologetically keeps stashed in her purse. The larger her body mass, the more powerful her special powers. Lemon isn't sure what to make of her mother's abilities until she begins to experience visions herself.
Ten Good Seconds zigzags back and forth in time in order to follow the progress of a loving but conflictual relationship between mother and daughter and their parallel struggles for self-awareness that take place decades apart
A mixture of Girl, Interrupted and The Edible Woman, this oddly magical novel has a breathless feel.
Ruth explores the things that make us tick with an attention to detail that never completely bogs down the plot's momentum. We quickly come to root for Lilith the survivor and love the scrappy Lemon's adolescent mistakes.
This first novel forecasts a unique talent.
Ten Good Seconds of Silence by Elizabeth Ruth (Dundurn), $19.99 paper, 414 pages. Rating: NNNN