The definition of family, according to www.dictionary.com is, “a basic social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group, whether dwelling together or not”. Jamie Zeppa takes that definition and flips it on its head in her wonderful new novel, “Every Time we say Goodbye“, in stores today. It is the story of the Turner family and be warned that you may need to draw a diagram to keep up with who weaves in and out of this dysfunctional family.
Much of the story surrounds the small Ontario city of Sault Ste Marie, in Northern Ontario, otherwise known as “the Soo”. The Turner family resides in this small community dating back to the 1930’s when Frank and Grace’s parents died young and the two were left to raise themselves. Frank took the lead role and tried his best to raise his younger sister Grace, who is an idealist and doesn’t really see the point in following the “rules”. The dynamic of the story changes (and really starts), when Vera enters their home after marrying Frank. She’s a stick to the plan kind of woman who runs a tight ship. It’s fair to say that we all have a Vera in our family in one form or another. Vera and Grace bump heads on numerous occasions, but their relationship takes its biggest hit when Grace unexpectantly gets pregnant by a boy in town who she refuses to name. From this point we are taken on a journey from the 1930’s to the 1980’s, where we’re introduced to the many people who make up the Turner family.
The 21st century has made our society unphased by divorce, scandals, adoption, topics in which Jamie Zeppa uses as a platform for this fabulous coming of age story. The story doesn’t just involve one person’s development, but a number of people in the Turner family. Like many families today, the dynamics about what’s “traditional” have changed and we’re introduced to children, stepmother’s, aunts and uncles; this is really a story about the new way families evolve. To share with all of you the people we’re introduced to in the story, would be a disadvantage (in my opinion) because it would take away from Jamie Zeppa’s fabulous story telling and hard work at interweaving a family and its growth over the years.
This story takes zigs and zags that are unexpected and make you hold on tight in a sense, because you never know where Jamie Zeppa is going to take you. There were a couple of times I actually found myself getting frustrated, because we kept being introduced to new characters who I didn’t know and couldn’t connect to, but that feeling faded away quickly as I began to see what Zeppa was doing in creating the new 21st century “traditional family”. Every character has a purpose and a place in the novel and the ending will once again take you in a completely different direction than you thought you were going. Jamie Zeppa is one of Knopf Random Canada’s New Face of Fiction authors and after reading her fabulous 352 page debut, it isn’t hard to figure out why!