Hay, Elizabeth. A Student of Weather. Washington D.C.: Counterpoint, 2000.
A Student of Weather is a car without brakes. No. A Student of Weather is a car without brakes set at the top of a very tall hill. No. A Student of Weather is a car without brakes set at the top of a very tall hill…and someone gives it a push. This is what is was like to read Elizabeth Hay’s first novel. It started off easy enough, slow enough, gentle enough, harmless enough. Then, without any warning at all it is careening crazily almost out of control. Impossible to stop. Stopping the read proved impossible, too. I seriously couldn’t put it down.
As mentioned before, the story starts out simply. Maurice Dove is a researcher, come to study the weather of Saskatchewan. He stays with the Hardy family – Ernest and his two daughters Lucinda and Norma-Joyce. Both daughters, despite being very young, fall in love with Mr. Dove. From there, simplicity comes to a halt. A Student of Weather is a novel full of contrasting themes. While Lucinda is fair-haired, beautiful and virtuous Norma-Joyce is dark-haired, impulsive and outspoken. While both sisters find ways to fall in love with their visitor, both also find ways to hate each other. Even the landscapes within the story are contrasting. Norma-Joyce’s childhood prairie home cannot compare to the bustling city of her adulthood, New York City. As time progresses and Norma-Jean grows to be a woman with a child of her own, even her child is a conflicted in personality – both shy and loud simultaneously.
On the surface this seems like a love story – two sisters vying for the affections of a traveling man who loves neither of them. Digging deeper it is a story of betrayal and survival. It is the story of pain and loss and the idea that not every broken heart gets mended.
There were many, many, many favorite lines. Here are some of the best:
“Had she been able to , she would have kept the water he washed in, the skin that flaked away, the warm breath that hovered in the cold air above his head, his footprints in the snow” (p 96). I love how each item becomes something less obtainable. Had I written the line I would have reversed the order of the last two items.
“Maybe that’s all anyone wants in the end, to be remembered rather than overlooked’ (p 112). Simple line, but I loved it.
“She understood that you can pass from summer to winter in someone’s mind without even leaving the room” (p 172). Tragically beautiful. Been there, but who hasn’t?
“But returning is never easy, and nor is September” (p 283). Since I can add a car accident and a death to September sadness, I agree. Completely.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in two different chapters. In ” Canadian Fiction” (p 50) and again in “First Novels” (p88).
I think nine times out of ten people are cruel because they have something better to say…but they can’t think of it at the moment. Can’t think on their feet so they act like a heel. They have to be funnier than kind. Hurtful is hilarious and sweet is just plain silly. I think nine times out of ten people are critical because they are jealous. They don’t want to admit to being lacking or without. Just because they can. What does it take for someone to see the riches in life without making comparisons? It takes a tragedy to recognize a triumph.
And now for something completely different.
Thank you for making me smile. Thank you for taking me out of my funk. I am glad I agreed to go. I’m glad you were there to greet me. Here’s the thing. I don’t say it enough but I value every minute of your time. I don’t take advantage of that time everytime but you inspire me just the same. Even if I only take ten minutes I am so much the better for it. Really. In the here and now I am on the other side of jumping. I think I have even started to climb down from the ledge. I think I’m close enough to the ground to stand on my own two feet. Soon. But, but. But! I still need you and your smile. I still need to know you are there. Even if I decide to jump after all.
We are right in the middle of a messy divorce. Not that we want to be. We didn’t mean to put ourselves here – it just became part of the deal by default. But, in the grand scheme of things it has taught me a valuable lesson: stay away from drama. Run, don’t walk, from situations out of your control.
I learned of an on-coming train wreck last night. My first instinct was to jump from the track. My second was to stay and see what happens. High drama is always highly amusing. Except when there is the potential to get tangled up in it. I really, really don’t want to be involved. I was there before. I feel like I just got free of it. Why get in the way again?
Last night I ignored the signs and stayed on. Last night I wanted to believe. Today, I see things differently. Much differently.
There is a scene in some chick-flick movie. Of course I don’t remember the name of it. Bette Midler plays a meddling mother. She loves her daughter too much to be of any good to her. In the end she picks a fight to end the relationship. She does it on purpose to put some distance between her and her daughter. It’s painful – but necessary. Something she must do. At the time I didn’t understand the ending. Thought it was stupid and unnecessary. A royal WTF? Now, I get it. I am at that point. I get the point. All I want is for you to be happy. I’ve said it a thousand times. You mean the world to me. Butbutbut, I refuse to be part of the approaching drama. There is no way I can be involved and be accused. Again. If I can’t live my passions out in the open without having them distorted and distrusted I don’t want to have them at all. I refuse to defend what I hold dear.
Don’t hate me for pulling a Bette.
I’ve got the Black Crowes in my head. “Jealous. Jealous again.” Because I am. Of you. I have exactly 44 days until I can go homehome. 44 days to deal with being landlocked and loser. I always think of you when I hear the Black Crowes but this time it’s more than that. You were there. You could have bragged about it. You didn’t. Instead, you let me down easy. Talking more about the weather than what I was missing. I got weather here, too. I wanted to crawl through the phone and smell the salt in your hair. You were just there. What made me ask? Torturing myself with the wanting. How was the pizza? Where did you hike? Was it crowded? I stopped short of asking how the sea smelled, how the surf sounded on the shore, what was in bloom. Stopped short of being pitiful, but wanting all the same.
I reminded myself of someone I knew once. She would flip through fashion magazines and Victoria’s Secret catalogs and ask her boyfriend, “Do you think she’s pretty? Do you like her legs?” as she shoved the glossy near naked women in his face. “Well? Well?” What was she looking for? A lie? Could she handle the truth? What made her force the admission?
Funny thing about jealousy. It changes everything once it flares up and rages out of control. Like a fire, things get out of hand if not handled properly. People say stupid things when they are bit by the ugly green eye. Jealousy. Things become infected by jealousy. You lose things to jealousy. Things burn up in jealousy. Friends. Relationships. Things. Life as we knew it. Life period. I sort through the rubble, bits of charred emotions still smoking. Make my way through what I want to salvage, deciding what is worth keeping. Nothing. I decide nothing is worth salvaging. Let it burn I say. I’ll be home in 44 days.