Carol Shields’s Swan was the first of her oeuvre that I encountered in a Women’s Literature course in grad school. I enjoyed her prose and engrossing plots and her knack for point-of-views that are unique and refreshing. I read The Stone Diaries for my bookclub’s December pick and it was…interesting.
The plot is the story of Daisy Goodwill, which begins in Manitoba, Canada pre-WWI. The narrator sounds like Daisy herself telling the story of how her parents met and she was conceived. Daisy spends most of her childhood in Canada before moving with her father to Bloomington, Indiana. She then comes into adulthood and moves to Ottawa where she meets her husband and spends the rest of her adulthood. Upon retirement she moves to Florida and spends the rest of her life their.
It sounds mundane, but that’s where the story becomes intriguing. While it seems a superficial accounting of a woman’s life, it really becomes more about how we account for our lives. What does it mean to tell someone’s life story? Is it the the telling of our parents’ lives and how that past influences our own lives? Is it what others would say about the events in our lives? Or maybe it’s what we say through our journals, emails, blogs, Twitter feeds, and Facebook posts? These are the questions that Ms. Shields discusses with the reader through Daisy’s life.
This is an engrossing read that gives the reader thought as to what would our life’s story look like in narrative form. There’s a mixing of points-of-view as well as genres that relate the story of Daisy Goodwill. It makes me wonder is there any one good way to tell someone’s story? Are we too complex to be boiled down to a narrative? This book has a lot of food for thought even while the ending becomes a bit stale.