Reviewed by Ulrike Durán Bravo
Nine chapters, nine women, nine generations. Every single of the nine Claires is so interesting that a whole novel could have been written on each. Instead, Brunelle presents a collection of magical snapshots of each of the women's lives.
All of Brunelle's Claires are strong-minded, strong-willed, proactive, feisty and incredibly human: “Back home they called me a witch... Whore is an improvement, don't you think?” Brunelle's writing is fun and therefore bounces over the heavier issues. This makes for an uplifting and comforting read: no matter that her protagonists are often discriminated females born into a male society. With them, we can run away with the circus, live on trains, fly around the world in a giant yellow balloon. We can sail continents and leave our abusive husbands. We can see into the future and be proud of our past.
The men are mostly loveable and not very scary – not even the violent or alcoholic husband. There is one little racist who sets up a correction school for natives who is the most worrying character, had he been given more space to develop. Does it matter that men are secondary characters? Hardly. After all, this is a book about the women, not their husbands. And wouldn't it be nice to live in a society where all women were so strong we never had to be scared of men?
Brunelle paints Canada as a romantic place – a hint of Anne of Green Gables shining through. Nature is lush and innocent, a friendly place and yet wild. Magical, like Narnia: “Between her and the owl, the forest listened: crack, snap, swish, roar, and the river's current pushed against the nearby frozen riverbank.” Despite claiming that she hardly does any research, as a reader you utterly believe the years that she describes by some simple props she uses: listening to a walkman in the eighties, steam engines in the early 20th Century, right through to the emigration to the New World in the 1820s.
In the end, this book is all about the ripple effect. Each chapter has references to the future daughters, as if those yet unborn daughters were always in those womens' consciousnesses. In Brunelle's novel, the daughters are shaping their mothers, instead of the other way round. Your children's lives and their children's lives, will always and forever be affected by the choices you make: “like a pebble from Heaven that splashes in the ocean. In a gathering circular wave, their words were carried beyond the ship, beyond the ocean, beyond the shore, beyond the ends of the earth and beyond space and time itself: rippling, swelling and crashing from one life to another, and another, and another.”
Claire Never Ending is independently published by Catherine Brunelle.