THE MATHEMATICS OF FAMILY
The Sunshine Coast writer Theresa Kishkan has remarkable range. She’s written lovely lyric poetry, as well as novels and novellas. Her most recent book, Euclid’s Orchard & Other Essays (Mother Tongue), is a collection of personal essays that recall two of Kishkan’s previous collections: Phantom Limb (2007) and—still one of my favourites—red Laredo Boots (1996). The essays in Euclid’s Orchard explore the half-hidden narratives that accumulate over the many generations (and the many lifetimes) of a family. In “Herakleitos on the Yalakom,” Kishkan tries to gain a better understanding of her late father, a complicated man who loved to fish, but who found it easier to criticize than to praise: “I remember only your temper, your irritation at being asked for something, the bitter words about ingratitude.” In “Poignant Mountain,” Kishkan revisits the Fraser Valley community where her family lived for a time during her childhood, recalling “summer mornings, [when] sunlight poured through the open loft doors, where hay bales were thrown from the wagon.” The book’s title essay is a celebration of the ways a family can sometimes enrich itself in unexpected ways, as members of each generation discover and express their own particular passions: “It never occurred to me that other vocabularies would enter our lexicon and that I would comprehend fewer and fewer of the codes my children used to navigate their way through the world.” Embracing diversity can lead to beauty: a patchwork quilt from many fabrics.