“I think it’s my favourite David Bergen book.” My sister and I said that almost at the same time over a glass of wine the other night. We had both just finished reading David Bergen’s Here the Dark.
My sister had a hard time choosing which of the short stories in the book she’d liked the best, but for me, it was definitely the title story. Lily, its main character was the only female protagonist in the book, and I grew to admire her fiercely. Her courage to explore who she was as a woman in the world reminded me so much of Esther, the main character in the excellent Netflix series Unorthodox. Both Esther and Lily struggle to find their identity within the confines of their religious communities.
Although men are the protagonists in all the other stories quite a number featured strong women who made the men reevaluate their lives. In April in Snow Lake, a young man’s relationship with a local woman leads to an unforgettable and possibly near-death experience in the bush. Never Too Late tells the story of a solitary rancher whose life is altered by his romantic relationship with a woman who has multiple sclerosis and is in a wheelchair. In Man Lost, a fisherman does something illegal, but his actions are motivated by his love for his wife and his sister and their children. How Can n Men Share a Bottle of Vodka introduces us to a math teacher whose relationship with a female colleague makes him stop drinking and pay more attention to his daughter.
The settings for the stories in Here the Dark are varied and include Honduras, Vietnam, Kenora, and rural Manitoba. Each story provided me with lots to think about.
Before I read Here the Dark, my favourite David Bergen book was The Time In Between with The Age of Hope a close second. I read both quite some time ago so I may need to revisit their pages before I move them down a notch and let Here the Dark slip into first place.