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Clara Callan by Richard B. Wright


This book was recommended to me several years ago. I bought it and it sat on my shelf until I put it forward as a possible book club pick and here we are. Another Canadian author, Richard B. Wright was actually a local author for me, until his death a few years ago. This is the first of his books that I read.


Clara Callan takes place in a small village in Northern Ontario in the 1930's. The story is about Clara and her sister, Nora. Clara is a local teacher who doesn't like change. She took care of their father until his death and is content with a solitary life in their childhood home. Nora is willing to take more risks, she moves to New York City, is the life of the party and wants to make it big in radio. The sisters are very different, but they are loyal to one another and need one another. In a time when women were not usually independent, the two women live very different lives trying to overcome obstacles that life throws at them. For Clara there is the small town gossip to consider and for Nora, it's the slippery path to fame.


The book is written in journal entries and letters. I usually don't care for this, but Wright's book is an exception. The book still flowed and it allowed for the reader to be inside the minds of both sisters. It's interesting what Clara chooses to share with her sister and what she chooses to keep for her journals. It helped to give a much more full experience of who she is.


As the sisters deal with grief, being apart, men, marriage, their jobs, and other taboo topics of the time, I found myself cheering them on in their strength, competency and loyalty to each other. Other times, they shocked me by their decisions and in the end maybe they weren't so different after all.


When this book was published in 2001, it won the Giller Prize and the Governor General's Literary Award. That's quite an accomplishment. Reading this almost two decades after publication and during the COVID-19 quarantine, it was a good escape for me.


This is one I think is worth checking out.


Bookworm Rating: 🐛🐛🐛🐛


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