In The Swing Tree, by Kristin Andrychuk (Oberon, 160 pages, $31.95 cloth, $15.95 paper), Cath, forty-seven, a divorced mother of three teenagers, has moved her family back to take care of her ninety-year-old stepmother, Momma. The story revolves around Cath's attempts to sort out her life and its complex set of relationships, and come to terms with her childhood demons. She "wants her history." Momma fuels this interest with her continual stories, and Cath is an avid reader of novels "because they tell her what life feels like, not just what happened." She wants to be able to "read" her own life in the same way.
Given this concern with feeling, it's strange that Andrychuk has chosen to write in such a detached style. It's as if she were trying to keep Cath at arm's length, watching her from a distance and reporting what she sees and hears. Also, there is a repetition of ideas (such as the importance of telling one's story, for instance) that eventually becomes annoying.