Book review: The Small Things that End the World by Jeanette Lynes

It’s 1954, and Sadie Wilder just got the call she’s been waiting for.  Her friend, Wanda, has the mumps, and the rich family she babysits for is desperate.  So begins Jeanette Lynes’ The Small Things that End the World. 

Sadie is more than happy to fill in, hoping to prove herself indispensable to the Bannisters.  She is floored by the dashing Forest Bannister in his Austin-Healey, and covets the Bannisters’ beautiful seafoam green appliances.  She even begins to like little Bobby, although she’s not so sure about the baby and her incessant diaper smell.

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But diapers become the least of her worries when the storm outside the Bannisters’ upscale Toronto home begins to lash at the windows and the power goes out.  Then tree limbs start to break through the windows and water invades the house.  Eventually Sadie must make her way out onto the roof with her young charges as Hurricane Hazel bears down.

Fast forward nineteen years and we meet Sadie’s daughter, Faith.  Mother and daughter live on a chicken farm in rural Ontario.  The night of the hurricane has left an indelible mark on Sadie – a weight on her shoulders that she has inadvertently passed on to Faith.   When Faith discovers that Sadie has been hiding a family secret, she hits the road, hitch hiking to Thunder Bay to start a new life.

Again we move forward in time to meet Faith’s daughter, Amber.  This mother and daughter pair have moved from Toronto to New Orleans.  As Amber struggles to fit in at her new all-American high school, Faith struggles as a single mother with no family support.  But when Amber stumbles upon Sadie’s name, she knows she must meet her grandmother.

And so we come full circle.  Three generations of women must decide if they can heal old wounds and move forward together. 

Lynes’ strength is her effective use of dramatically different voices for each of her three characters.  Haunted by family secrets, each woman struggles to build her own life, separate from her mother. But despite their mistakes, each character is altogether likeable and the novel as a whole is an enjoyable read.

 

For other reading suggestions visit Richmond Public Library’s website at www.yourlibrary.ca/goodbooks

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