. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . where ImagInatIon comes to play

Sunday 13 July 2008

Kiss the Joy as it Flies
By Sheree Fitch

Sheree Fitch is an educator, a literacy activist, a writer and a poet. The multi-award winning author of children’s books tries out her special kind of magic on an adult audience for the first time with Kiss the Joy As It Flies, a novel about a woman facing her own mortality.

From the start, it isn’t made clear why forty-eight year old Mercy should be so afraid for her life. And the author maintains a fashion of randomly drip-dropping information, important pieces of a puzzle provided in sparsely scattered chunks that shock us awake now and again.

Mercy Fanjoy is a teacher and a freelance journalist who pens a weekly column by the name of “Mercy’s Musings” in the maritime city of Odell. The daughter, mother, and self-made woman takes us along her winding path backwards through time, revisiting relationships lost and friendships that have survived the test of time. The family and friends in Mercy’s life are both colourful and believable. The only character that remains elusive throughout is Mercy herself.

A student once evaluated Mercy by saying “that her joy and positive attitude were suspect as well as irritating”. Her syrupy giddiness makes Mercy Beth Fanjoy – even her name tastes too saccharine on the tongue – difficult to empathize with. It is made more so given that Fitch never reveals any great depth to her everyday heroine.

Admittedly, this is the making of a good summer read. The subject matter does not deter from the chuckles throughout. And idiomatic phrases such as “feeling runny as egg yolk”, “the rhubarb flesh of breasts”, and “dust particles danced like fireflies” contribute to a language that exposes the poet as well as the children’s story writer.

Sheree Fitch is best known for titles such as There Were Monkeys in My Kitchen, and If You Could Wear my Sneakers, a book on Children's Rights commissioned by Unicef (she has been their goodwill ambassador since 1994). Dividing her time between Washington, D.C. and River John, Nova Scotia, the similarities between Fitch and her main character are evident. The maritime writer known for her perpetual smile and high-pitched laughter, and who still dots her “i’s” with hollow circles, shares personality and careers with her protagonist.

That Fitch is used to shielding her younger audiences from anything that goes bump in the night is unmistakable in her first attempt at writing adult fiction. She may inadvertently be trying to protect her adult readers from the bumps they are already on intimate terms with. What remains is a fusion of genres that defies comparison. And it makes for a light read that falls short as a true-to-life account of a woman facing her deepest fears.

In time, though not soon enough, Fitch exposes some of Mercy's underbelly. When the character is revealed as a woman capable of anger and of all those less attractive emotions that most of us live out loud on a daily basis, we are then able to connect more easily with her. As for those who inhabit Mercy’s world, Fitch succeeds in presenting characters that remind us of the humour that exists in our messy, everyday lives.

Her humour and language are both fresh and engaging, but it’s unfortunate that Sheree Fitch fails to take us all the way. Sharing a few tears with Mercy, and being allowed to touch more of her fearfulness, would have been welcome and necessary in making this tale about facing death - and life - a credible one.

No comments: