I’ll Be Watching, by Pamela Porter (2011)

Genre: Historical Fiction, Novel in Verse
Interest level: 16-adult
I'll Be WatchingSet in the little town of Argue, Saskatchewan in 1941, this novel in verse tells the story of the four Loney children, their ghost mother and grieving father, and the assorted characters, both nasty and kind, who populate this Prairie town. The children are virtually orphans even when their dad is alive – he consoles his grief with beer, and unwisely chooses to marry again. When he dies unexpectedly, the children are left with a cruel stepmother. Soon the children are fending for themselves, getting an occasional helping hand from a neighbour, but more often a snide remark coupled with a nasty look. And always, they are watched and fiercely protected by their mother’s ghost, hence the title. The verse lends itself well to this story author Porter (who won a Governor-General’s Award for her first novel in verse) manages to create unique and authentic voices for the large cast of characters. She paints a bleak picture of the landscape in winter, the sworls of frost on the windows and the joyous promise of a crocus in the snow. It’s published as young adult fiction, and while the main characters in this book are teens (Ran is 17, Norah is 14, Jim is 12 and little Addie is about 7), I’m not convinced it will find its audience there. The story is just a bit too painful – incest, abuse, wartime grief, alcohol abuse – and despite the teen protagonists, they were so distracted by the effort of surviving they might as well have been 10 or 30. Having said that, a terrific story with characters that bore into your heart, a plot that is surprisingly tension-filled, and writing that starts quietly but soon sings off the page.
More reviews and discussion of this novel: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11454288-i-ll-be-watching

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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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