Thursday, September 8, 2011
I'll Be Watching, written by Pamela Porter. Groundwood, 2011. $12.95 ages 12 and up
Somewhere inside, you know it.
When you come through the door
and stumble upon Jim's tuque just here -
on the floor -
think that it was I looking after you."
Anyone who has lived in a small town will recognize Argue, Saskatchewan. There, everyone knows what's going on with every other single person who lives there. They all know about the Loney family. George, the father, has been on a downhill slide since his wife Margaret died in a car crash. George was driving and it's said he smelled of alcohol at the time. In order to provide care for his four children, George has married Effie. She has no love for the children, for George; in fact, for life in Argue. She makes life miserable to the Loneys.
In a wonderful collection of distinct voices we learn about the lives led by the people of the town, and the Loneys in particular. Margaret, the deceased mother, watches over them and offers advice in any way she can. The three oldest children have widely differing perspectives on their situation, while offering support and love in their own unique ways. When their father also dies, and Effie leaves town, they are left to their own devices. Jim, the twelve year old middle son has something to say about their situation:
"Everyone in town knows what happened to us.
Don't need fire to spread a rumor.
Some already saying we'll be going
to live with relatives. What relatives?
Only one I know about is Mama's sister, Louise.
Lives in Ontario - big brick house - and five children.
I doubt she'll want the likes of us."
Together, they do their best to stay together; it is a bleak existence. The children manage with help from their watchful parents, and a few kindly, concerned neighbors. It is the children themselves, their strength of character and willingness to do anything to stay together, who make their lives work, despite the many hardships.
There are people in town whose self-interest is fueled by deceit and immoral behavior. They make the children pawns in that deceit. Carol Williams, the postmistress, has her finger on the pulse of all townspeople and constantly shares her sanctimonious opinions with pleasure:
"If you ask me, Argue's full of crazy people.
Put Argue on skids and slide it over Weyburn way,
could anybody tell the difference between us here
and the mental?"
Those who are kind and good also have an impact. Dr. John Payne is one of those who care about the courageous and independent Loney children:
"My only requirement is that
the name of the donor
She seemed pleased. Speechless, truth be told.
Truth is, I don't want to leave this world
having simply taken from it.
I don't want, at the time of my death,
to have given nothing beyond
that which was expected of me."
Through the trauma of their many dark days, the Loney children remain a family unit, in the best sense of the word. When they are finally able to leave Argue, they leave together...and that is as it should be. What a powerful and memorable free verse novel this is! Thank you again, Pamela Porter!