THE MATH­E­MAT­ICS OF FAM­ILY

Geist - - Endnotes - —Michael Hay­ward

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.

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