As I mentioned in an earlier post, I use the 50-page rule when I get the feeling that a book is not for me. Even though I felt it in my gut, I didn’t follow the rule for this book and was regretful. But looking back, I think Dionne Brand is a dynamite writer and I can’t wait to try another one of her books.
Love Enough tells the story of the intersecting lives of a middle-aged woman with a life-time of bad relationships, a troubled young man who has beaten someone for their car and a sad young girl who can’t stop being haunted by the mother who abandoned her as a child. We learn about the people whom they love or have loved, the unshakeable longings and questions that remain unanswered.
As an award-winning poet, it’s no surprise Dionne Brand’s narrative is gorgeous and lyrical. She paints the bleak, ugliness of an urban environment within a gilded frame and finds the beauty in flawed, agitated characters. As someone who previously lived in Toronto for almost fifteen years and still works there, I appreciated how cleverly she used the city as a backdrop for turmoil, revealing all of the shadow and light her characters wander through physically and emotionally.
Other than the elegance of the author’s writing, I did not enjoy the book. I found it difficult to take interest in the characters and their problems. June, the middle-aged woman’s story provided a few sparks of interest, but all of their pain seemed to me a direct result of their stubbornness, impetuous behaviour and unwavering belief the world owes them something. I wanted to tell them to grow up and get over themselves.
For me, Love Enough is lacking because of its characters. I don’t believe it’s necessarily an issue of “likeability” or lack of ability to empathize with their story because the theme of just wanting to be loved is universal and very relatable. I found it hard to believe such messed-up characters could be talking or thinking with such sophistication about life and the complexities of love. Dionne Brand served as Toronto’s Poet Laureate from 2009 to 2012. She is a tremendously gifted writer and in the book she conjures up deep, magical observations for characters that do not deserve it.