The Birthday Lunch by Joan Clark
Publishing Date: June 9, 2015
Publisher: Knopf Canada
Pages: 272 pages
Literary Fiction / Family Life / Psychological
The Premise: The story takes place during a week where a family tragedy hits. On Lily's birthday, her husband Hal and her sister Laverne, both compete to take her out for her birthday lunch. They are not on the best terms and because they live in the same house, they tolerate one another. Laverne has always thought Hal wasn't good enough for Lily and Hal has always known that. On that day, a truck driver driving beyond the speed limit hits Lily and she passes away. The story follows how her family comes to terms with her death and follows them for the week after the events of Lily's passing.
My overall thoughts and review: I will be honest that when selecting this book, I was immediately intrigued by the beautiful cover. That aside, the premise of the book that deals with how a family deals with an unexpected and tragic death sounded really interesting. It resonates with me on a personal level and I found myself getting quite emotional at some moments in the book. When an accident happens and the person is killed, there is the feeling that someone or something must be blamed for what occurred. The family goes through the motions of trying to figure out who is at blame for Lily's death and it really fascinated me how different every character approached the problem. It was interesting to see the dynamic between Laverne and Hal. They are both frustrating characters, Laverne more than Hal. But I think that difficulty between them strengthens the tension within the story and that tension can be read as an instigating factor as well. Overall, I think this is a wonderful Canadian literature piece that tackles questions of death, accidents, and family tensions. I really appreciated that Clark wrote the story offering perspectives for all the characters, such as Hal, Lily, Laverne, Claudia and Matt and even including the minor ones, like those who witnessed the accident. The ending definitely left me feeling uncomfortable, but I think that it is quite fitting with the theme of the story, and that there is no definitive solution when it comes to a death like Lily's.
My rating of the book: ✮✮✮✮ (4/5 stars)
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Disclaimer: A copy of this book was sent to me by Random House Canada for consideration/review. All opinions are my own.