Saturday, April 25, 2020

The Canterbury Sisters

The Canterbury Sisters, by Kim Wright

A nice, light read...that was the order after being immersed in all the coronavirus news and also having read a lot of heavy nonfiction lately. I went downstairs into our cluttered study and found The Canterbury Sisters.

Given the fact that we are two English majors, avid readers, and professional writers, some of our friends might be puzzled at the lack of books in our main living space. That's because they are all hidden away downstairs on packed bookshelves and piles on the floor! One advantage of being confined at home and having our libraries closed is that I will finally make a dent in our own library. Last year Mike and I gave away 2/3 of the books we owned in a fit of Kon Mari decluttering. But we still have loads!

The Canterbury Sisters fit the bill for a distraction. I started the book while taking a highly unusual bath, prompted by a rainbow bath bomb sent by my beloved friend Catherine. I was informed by my 13-year-old that I was in the bath for well over an hour, possibly for an hour and a half...reading. Good for the soul.

Che de Milan is the daughter of a narcissist who has died. When her mother's ashes arrived, they came with a plea to take her to Canterbury Cathedral. On that same day, Che received a "Dear Juanita" letter from her long-time lover, dumping her. She booked a ticket to England.

Although she originally wanted to take a solo walking tour to Canterbury from London, things didn't turn out the way she'd planned. She ends up with a group of American women, Broads Abroad, and from the very beginning she's not too happy about that. She loses her phone, her fifth limb, on that very first night, but it turns out to be just the ticket to distract her from her usual life and focus on the present.

A wine critic and a critic of everything else, Che is not a particularly likable character. But because the book is told in the first person, we only see things from her perspective. She looks down on all the other women in the beginning of the story.

Akin to The Canterbury Tales (which I read once upon a time in college), their tour guide, young English professor Tess, informs them that each of them should tell a story about love on their walking trip. And it was the stories that I actually enjoyed most about this book. They were not all directly about love, but each story shed more light on that particular character's life.

By the end of the novel, Che (named for the revolutionary by her hippie parents) is more likable...but I'm not sure she's someone I would want to befriend. She told a great story though, and in times like these, that was enough for me!

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