First Fiction Fridays: Turn Us Again by Charlotte R. Mendel

September 6, 2013

Turn Us Again is a complex, engrossing novel. Winner of the 2012 Beacon Award for Social Justice Literature and based on a true story, Turn Us Again is told from the perspective of the protagonist, Gabriel, in the present-day and his mother in post-World War II England. At its core, it explores the darker sides of family dynamics and the ways these dynamics are transferred from generation to generation, subconsciously learned, copied and replicated.

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What:

Turn Us Again (Roseway Publishing, 2013)

Who:

Charlotte R. Mendel’s writing has appeared in City Lights, the Tel Aviv supplement of The Jerusalem Post, The Breastfeeding Diaries, The Nashwaak Review, The Healing Touch of Horses and several other anthologies. Turn Us Again is her first novel. She currently lives in Enfield, Nova Scotia, with her family.

Why You Need to Read This Now:

Turn Us Again is a complex, engrossing novel. Winner of the 2012 Beacon Award for Social Justice Literature and based on a true story, Turn Us Again is told from the perspective of the protagonist, Gabriel, in the present-day and his mother in post-World War II England. At its core, it explores the darker sides of family dynamics and the ways these dynamics are transferred from generation to generation, subconsciously learned, copied and replicated.

In the present, we have Gabriel, who upon reconnecting with his estranged father, is given a manuscript written by his now-deceased mother. The manuscript details his mother and father’s courtship and marriage, the highs, and the ever-deepening lows. Gabriel is shocked to learn how cruel, and eventually physically abusive, his father was to his mother. So we have Gabriel and his father discussing these events in the present. Gabriel’s response to these facts are complicated, eventually culminating in utter disgust for his father.

After returning home, Gabriel is appalled to learn how similar he is to his father, as he reenacts some of the same patterns of anger and abuse with his partner Jenny.

We also have the story of Gabriel’s parents, Madelyn and Sam, where we are brought into the intimate inner-workings of their relationship. It is here that Charlotte R. Mendel’s strength — and restraint — as a storyteller is on full display. While Madelyn and Sam’s relationship is utterly dysfunctional, Mendel provides us with a multi-dimensional portrayal of a marriage fraught with fiery tempers, aggression both passive and active, and physical and mental abuse.

To be sure, Mendel’s comment is not “this is how all marriages are,” nor is she saying that the behaviours of her characters is acceptable — far from it. Mendel shows us how this marriage is and how it impacts those around it, whether they be children, partners or spouses.

Ultimately, Turn Us Again is a novel that readers will want, and need, to discuss. Some may find it uncomfortable or even hard to read in parts; some will be frustrated at the characters. In any case, readers will come away affected, and Mendel’s work will be on their minds in the days that follow.

*****

“At the heart of the novel is the quest to seek answers in the wake of violence and the daunting if not impossible challenge of forgiveness. Mendel does not give answers but the novel leaves this reader understanding once again the healing power of narrative in all our lives. A brave story indeed.” —  Sheree Fitch, poet and author of I Died on A Hot June Day

*****

To learn more about Turn Us Again and Roseway Publishing (an imprint of Fernwood Publishing) follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

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Edited from the original post, published on the LPG blog


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