Monday, October 15, 2007

The Green Library

Janice Kulyk Keefer is the Ukrainian-Canadian writer. This distinction may not mean much to most readers, but I feel obligated to read her. As such, I started her memoirs Honey and Ashes several months ago but found the writing sluggish and inaccessible. I tried Kulyk Keefer again this weekend with her novel The Green Library.

At first, I found The Green Library equally difficult to read. I am not an expert on contemporary Canadian writers. However, my experience is that many of them favor stylistic writing. Kulyk Keefer is no exception. At first, her writing felt dense and self-conscious. I was more aware of the words on the page—of trying to decipher her meaning—than actually comprehending or enjoying the story itself.

Eventually, though, I grew more accustomed to Kulyk Keefer’s writing and found myself more absorbed in the story and less distracted by the writing.

Eva is a middle-aged woman who unexpectedly discovers she has Ukrainian heritage. She visits Ukraine and becomes reacquainted with a boy (now a man) she knew as a child.

Although I’m not as young as I’d like to be, I still have difficulty enjoying and relating to stories about middle-aged women who experience relationship crises. Kulyk Keefer continually describes Eva as an extraordinarily caring and sympathetic woman. Yet, she alienates her longtime lover, seems complacent about cutting off ties with her lover’s child whom she raised, and rarely appears concerned about her own biological son. As a person, I found her unattractive and unappealing.

But I am in love with Ukraine, and I enjoyed Kulyk Keefer’s descriptions of a 1993 Kiev. The book has too much Ukrainian history, something that could be incredibly boring to the average reader, but I was fascinated by it.

Ultimately, the book held my interest, but The Green Library may not be to everyone’s taste.

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