When We Were Good - Suzanne  Sutherland

The intensity of Katherine’s teenage years is depicted authentically and unsentimentally. She is clearly having a tough year, but the story is not unremittingly bleak. The credible dialogue, the pacing of the prose, the variety of characters, the light-touch on heavy-subjects: all of this invites readers to spend time with the story.


And Katherine finds coping mechanisms as, for instance, when her grandmother dies: “In four days I read almost everything Alice Munro had ever written. She was Grandma’s favourite; her short stories were these perfect little pearl worlds that lured me out of my own head for the few hours that I gave myself over to them completely. I fell asleep more than once face down in Grandma’s old hardcover copy of Munro’s Selected Stories, long after the words had stopped making sense.”


Katherine not only finds comfort in books, connection and a sense of safety: she also finds herself there. “The book was an amulet, it was my protector. It was sacred, it was holy.”


And although this delightful bookishness alone might be enough of a bridge to avid readers, Katherine is also passionate about music and finds strength, too, in the Toronto landscape, as well as in a complex and challenging relationship.


But to say more than that would be spoiler-ish, though this is just the kind of story that leaves one wanting to spoil it by saying “Oh, didn’t you just love the part where….?”

More about this, a favourite of mine this reading year, here, on Buried In Print.