Friday, December 16, 2011

An Oldie But STILL A Goodie: Haunted By Dreams by Norah Wilson

John Deadmarsh had loved Cassandra Ashe once, a long time ago. As a student in Toronto, he'd wooed the mysterious Maliseet beauty to his bed, only to have her steal away while he slept, taking his heart with her. When he runs into her seventeen years later in sleepy Fredericton, New Brunswick, the betrayal stings like it was just yesterday. Cass would like nothing better than to steer a wide berth around this tall, dark and dangerous reminder of her youthful mistake. But John, now a psychologist, is treating Cass's young friend Nikki. Their mutual concern for Nikki puts them in frequent conflict. From the first encounter, it's obvious the attraction is still there. 

To Cass's dismay, so is all that loaded emotion from that long-ago summer. Even more disturbing, she sees that John is just as haunted by the events of that summer as she is. How can she continue to deny him the truth about why she left him? But if she tells him the truth, what will it mean for the fragile new bond that's growing between them?

It isn't often that many of us find such delightful treasures unless we are the kind of book lovers who haunt used bookstores.  I do love the old stuff almost as much as the new books that are appearing at an unbelievable rate.  I find, though, that I get caught up in waiting for the next batch of new books and as a reviewer I am usually inundated with stacks of them.  Once in awhile I begin researching an author and find a treasure like this book and am reminded of all the great reading that is "out there" that I have missed because of being taken over by the "new book craze."

This is a story that caught my interest largely because the two main characters meet after seventeen years.  Yes, that's right, seventeen years.  Seventeen years of pain, remembered shared delight, questions, anger, and most of all, that empty feeling that comes whenever one allows those painful memories to remind each one that something that was so very special got put aside almost before it had a chance to become the wonder it was destined to be.  Cass is now 34, divorced but still very close to her ex.  He is a warm and caring man who loved Cass in his own way until he met his soul-mate.  He was prepared to honor his marriage vows and it was Cass who realized that something was dying inside her husband and set him free to be with his true love.  Our hero John is now 40, a licensed psychologist and professor at the local university, a man who could never really face marriage to someone other than Cass, and it is in the pursuit of her long-held dream of becoming a social worker with First Nation families that she and John meet after nearly two decades.  The anger and hurt surface immediately in the form of sarcasm and inuendo of a not very nice sort.  Through a strange set of circumstances, they continue to meet and those encounters force them both to sort out their feelings.

This story is full of surprises for the characters as well as for the reader.  At first I felt the animosity between Cass and John was a pit protracted, but when I thought about the nearly two decades of pain and questioning and, in Cass's case, carefully burying some important truth about that long-ago experience, I began to see their difficulties in moving beyond the anger.  It is also a novel that exposes readers to the extensive difficulties First Nation peoples continue to encounter  because of their color and their racial origin.  Canada struggles with prejudice against people of color as much as does any other country.  As Cass encounters the low self-esteem, the social problems, the lack of good housing and educational opportunity for her own people, she realizes that being adopted into a white, middle-class family has insulated her from so very much.  

So this is really a wonderful love story about second chances as well as a very skillful social commentary on the realities endured by Canada's original inhabitants.  Thus, it is a beautiful literary expression of Ms Wilson's writing skill as revealing some of her own concerns about some of these social ills that have plagued a really wonderful country for a very long time.  I hope you will consider this novel and enjoy it as much as I did.  It is really worth going back and re-claiming this book that first appeared a decade ago.

In future days I will be reviewing some of Ms Wilson's newer work.  Hope you stop back by often.

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