Intelligent literature is the reason I studied English in University and why I work in the publishing industry. I would categorize Brian Francis’ newest book, “Natural Order” in this category based on the fact that it was so intricate and real that it moved me to tears on more than one occasion.
We’re introduced to Joyce, a woman who we watch develop from her teenage years to old age. She spends her lifetime in the town of Balsden, a small community, that is ironically large enough to keep all her secrets hidden.
When we first meet Joyce, she’s a teenager who has a crush on a young man name Fred. Fred’s different from the other boys at school, he’s got a bit of flair to his personality. Before long, Joyce realizes that the feelings aren’t mutual due to the fact that Fred is attracted to men and plans to escape small town Balsden. After a few years, Joyce finds out through Fred’s Mother, Mrs. Pender that he’s dies a sad and lonely death. As the years pass, Joyce continues to visit Mrs. Pender to help her with errands and just be present so that this poor woman isn’t completely alone in the world.
As the friendship (if you can call it that) between these two women develops, Joyce begins to raise a family with a man named Charlie (who takes the cake as my favorite character in this story). Together, they have a little boy named John who, as a child, idolizes Joyce. As John ages, Joyce starts to notice different tendencies in her child’s behaviour and instead of embracing these differences, she keeps secrets and builds up barriers around John. Barriers that she believes are protecting him, but in turn, have a completely different outcome.
This book makes you think about actions and consequences and how they affect others around us. Brian Francis has written a powerful protagonist in creating Joyce, she’s filled with mystique, love and is one of the most complex women I’ve read about in ages. By page 50, I knew this book was going to be one that will be included in my top 10 favorites of 2011 and I have no doubt that if you decide to pick it up, it’ll be one of your new favorite books too!
**Brian Francis will be blogging at the National Post: The Afterward all this week, so be sure to check it out!**