His Whole Life

Elizabeth Hay’s Novel – His Whole Life.

Elizabeth Hay’s newest novel His Whole Life is our feature novel.  Following our Sunday break-out book discussion, Elizabeth Hay will be reading from and answering questions on this novel.  Bring along your book if you wish to have it signed. Over the 57 years we have engaged a number of authors and it has always been such a great experience.  We leave the weekend inspired and ready to get reading the books on our wish list.

The following link is from YouTube and it is Elizabeth Hay discussing her novel His Whole Life


The following is a wonderful review of this novel, which will inspire you to read it and hopefully come to our weekend to discuss the novel and hear Elizabeth Hay.

cover of book His Whole Life by Elizabeth Hay

Review from goodreads

Presenting a primary question…..”What is the worse thing you have ever done?”, as an early opening at the near start of this novel …( a background setting that never vanishes from the readers mind), is brilliant.

While I never quite forgot that question – which was asked more than once – I soon noticed …”oh, there sure are a lot of things the characters are not forgetting in ‘their’
Jim, who is only 10 years old, remembers the day he and his family discover a bullet
hole in the back passenger door of their Chevette. He also remembers a painful event which he doesn’t share with his family.
Jim’s father, George, remembers punching another kid in the mouth and his lip bled when he was a kid.
Jim’s mother, Nan, remembers when a school friend hurt her feelings deeply.
Lulu, a friend Nan reconnects with after 25 years, remembers that their parents loved her brother, Guy, more than her. She remembers that when her parents died, their land and house went to her brother – not her.

The author explains in the preface that this novel is set against the background of the 1995 referendum on Quebec Independence, which succeeded by the skin of their teeth. The image of the countries disunion and dividing themselves apart becomes a metaphor in the families …yet also a dual sub-plot ( which was a great part of the book because frankly being American I really never thought about this period in history and how citizens of Canada were deeply affected). I felt it through Elizabeth Hay’s storytelling to a point where I wanted to comfort my friends in Canada. If this were to happen today, I would be at their side as much as possible – cry and or cheer with them.
I get it… This marked a huge day – a day to remember!
More messages on ‘remembering’…( reflect and remember)… I think this is the strongest theme in this novel! Reflect and remember is a strong message in my Jewish culture, too.

The other thing I loved about this book was the intimacy and vulnerability of the characters.
It was especially meaningful for me – as a mother – to observe Jim’s thought process.
I had a lengthy conversation with my husband about this character. (One of the best-family- coming-of age books I’ve read in a long time).

When I was raising my daughters – day to day rush of life- I can ‘now’ look back and see ‘where’ their questions and things they shared where sometimes coming from a bigger context. But, as a busy mom – there were things I missed and simply didn’t ‘observe’.
For example…one day, Katy came home from her private school – 7th grade – she said,
“Leah’s mother has called the principle several times trying to get Steven tossed out of our school .. because she is sick and tired of Steven pulling her bra strap every day, hiding her notebook so she can’t turn in her work, and saying nasty things”.
I heard my daughter .. and I’m not sure of everything I said that day… but I never for one minute thought Katy was trying to tell me there was no Leah involved. I didn’t find out the ‘truth’ of that story until a couple years later when Katy was in Michigan attending a private High School – only to find out she was 67lbs in the hospital diagnosed anorexic.

There were so many beautiful things about this book…but my favorite was the gift of observing Jim observe life. I think every parent who has kids at home can learn from Jim. ( or let’s be honest ….from Elizabeth Hays)

Many other themes…..regret, forgiveness,(how much to forgive & self protection), marriage, ( separation), friendship, ( boundaries), loss,
compassion, love

I really loved this book – as you probably can see!
I have one ‘small’ problem ..,( my husband and I argued over this). There was a small scene that I felt was inappropriate…( enough where I at least want to talk about it)..,
but my husband says I’m silly. He admitted to double standards .. and that’s just the way life is!!
Note: I’m not saying Hays should have left out ‘my problem’ scene…. I just want to talk about it… (but obviously I can’t in this public review)… but I’m open to talking later with readers who read the book.

Thank You, MacLehose Press, Netgalley, and Elizabeth Hays

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