Book Review: February

Book Review: February by Lisa Moore, ISBN-10: 088784202X ISBN-13: 978-0887842023 

During a Valentine’s night storm in 1982, the oil rig Ocean Ranger sank off the coast of Newfoundland. All 84 men aboard died. In February, Lisa Moore brings this moment in Canadian history to life by portraying the fictional account of one family’s loss. 

This story is set in the present time, 25 years after the sinking of the Ocean Ranger. Helen O’Mara continues to struggle with the loss of the love of her life, Cal. When the rig went down Helen was left with 3 children under the age of 10, and she was newly pregnant with her fourth child. The story moves seamlessly from the present, to Helen’s memories of the night the boat went down and the days that followed, to the times when Cal was still alive. Helen has become obsessed with what the final moments of Cal’s life would have been like, and she replays that night over and over in her head. 

At the urging of her children and friends, Helen has begun to make some changes in her life. She attends yoga classes, renovates her home, and finally begins to look for love again. For 25 years she lived in the constant shadow of the tragedy of Cal’s death, and this book finds her struggling to try to move on with her life.

At the same time as Helen is struggling at this crossroads of her life, her oldest child, John, who is now in his mid-thirties is also finding himself at a critical point in his life. He is contacted by a woman with whom he had a one week long fling and finds out that she is pregnant with his child.  

Lisa Moore does a beautiful job of portraying Helen’s loneliness and feelings of loss without being overly sentimental. The prose of this novel is worthy of being savoured slowly. Normally when I am enjoying a book I become a speed reader, however with February I found myself slowing down and enjoying every word, often re-reading phrases or passages.  

The descriptions of the emotional effects of deciding to move past her state of grieving is rich with complexity and is written in a compassionate and realistic way. Someone who has lost a loved one will relate to the mixed emotions that Helen experiences as she begins to enjoy life again after 25 years of mourning.

February is a valuable piece of Canadian literature both for its portrayal of an important part of Canadian history and for its literary merits. The author’s previous titles include Alligator, Open and Degrees of Nakedness.

Erika Anderson is the manager of Coho Books, where she will happily resume providing oral book reviews once she is back from her maternity leave. She has a B.Sc. in Natural Resources Management.