As noted by Quill & Quire, Frances Itani is an awardwinning writer. Most recently, she won the Tilden/Saturday Night/CBC LiteraryAward for two consecutive years; an impressive feat as the stories are submittedto the jurors for evaluation anonymously. Now, Itani expands her controlof the short story medium, with her new novel, LEANING, LEANING OVER WATER,a series of connected short stories.
Almost all the narration is by Trude, the middle child of the King family.She has been told that her position in the family makes her the family collectorand teller of stories. The stories she recounts crystallize crucial momentsduring the life of her family, the people around them, and the social climate ofpre-Quiet Revolution Quebec.
The stories begin after the father has moved his family to a rural area onthe Quebec side of the Ottawa River, where he has taken a job paintingfleur-de-lis on tin trays in a nearby factory. For the children this means theygrow up in delightful wilderness surrounded by people and customs which arecompletely new, but leaves their English speaking, non-swimming mother inisolation. The family is cut off from much of the world, but there is much ofthe world around them. They learn of their individuality through the culturaldifferences they find between themselves and their nearest neighbours, the RomanCatholic family down the way. They learn about sex and despair first handthrough the few adults around them. And they are constantly exposed to life anddeath, and miracles through their constant contact with the river itself.
The Ottawa River ( the "water" referred to in the title) bordersthe King family abode and wends its way through every story in the novel --always rushing past, bringing with it joys and sorrows, its power never to beunderestimated, nor taken lightly -- underscoring the frailty of life lived onits banks.