She survived the storm that claimed the lives of the ill-fated fishing boat Andrea Gail’s crew (the Perfect Storm that inspired the book and film). But nothing prepared her for an even greater challenge—motherhood. Greenlaw chronicles her rapid journey from a self-sufficient, adventurous fisherman to the legal guardian of a teenager in Lifesaving Lessons: Notes from an Accidental Mother.
Elemental is an exquisite novel. Every word of it is tightly crafted and pregnant with possibility. It is self-referential and post-modern in the way it undermines time, creating a genetic and emotional link between characters in multiple times and places.
Bluff was born from Skomal’s own experience sitting at her gravely ill mother’s bedside, and the frustration, fear and hope all come through in her writing. To her credit, she hasn’t only drawn on this experience in writing Bluff, but has enlisted the advice of health, religious and legal professionals, all of whom are acknowledged.
It is in this setting that the dual tragedies unfold as each character faces the practical, ethical and moral dilemmas they have inherited from the past. She builds up tension by releasing the story in carefully crafted chapters told from two different perspectives of the events which happen in the two different periods of time.
The theme that unknown and uncontrollable forces beyond and within oneself determine one’s fate is typical of the “naturalist” school of writers. Among the famous naturalist writers are Emile Zola, Thomas Hardy and Jack London, who show people as biological entities who respond to environmental forces and internal stresses that they do not fully understand and cannot control. O’Hara differs from these earlier naturalist novelists in that he lacks their social conscience, and focuses upon the wealthy, rather than the poor, but his “naturalism” is demonstrated by his blunt style and frank, brutal depiction of human interactions.
The journey is allegorical for anyone’s life. The magic is one of facing the consequences of choice and the weight given to emotion and commitment to ones goals. What makes this journey special are the many characters that the boy meets on the way.
Because of her curation work for archaeology museums, many of her tales feature the study of archaeology although many tend to feature the tedious nature of cleaning artifacts rather than the careful study of a site.
Overall, this collection of short stories is quite imaginative and explores many different scientific areas of interest. The stories play with the effect on humanity. They explore changes to our bodies, minds, civilization, relationships and offer looks at different cultures.
There’s so much more in this novella, which has the depth and characterization of a novel. As a story it really finishes before the end, but aficionados of Cushing’s films, including Stephen Volk, and I, clearly didn’t want to stop.
Too many novels depict a woman in the arts accepting limited or no success in her field, because she has given herself up to romance, child-rearing or an unproductive bohemian lifestyle. It is refreshing that Dez escapes these fates.