Thursday, May 6, 2010

Suddenly by Bonnie Burnard

In Suddenly, three women, Sandra, Colleen and Jude, have been friends for a long time. Sandra and Colleen are sisters-in-law (Colleen married Sandra's brother, Richard), while Jude joined the twosome a bit later after a chance encounter. Now that Sandra's at the end of her life, the three of them, along with their husbands, examine their adult lives and come to terms with Sandra's illness.

I loved this book. I can see why Burnard is an award winning author. Her writing is superb. Because the book was so sad, I honestly thought I'd be a crying throughout the book. I was on the verge of tears for many parts, but I held it together because I really didn't want to put the book down. The book was captivating from beginning to end. I especially loved how Burnard transitioned between the present and the past. Actually, "loved" isn't a strong enough word. The transitions were beyond wonderful. The jump in time periods felt smooth and seamless rather than jarring. She sometimes had a character remember something from the past, but mostly she drew events from Sandra's journals, which spurred stories from past events.

At times through the book, I was oddly comforted by the actions of some of the characters. The way they cared for Sandra, reminisced with her and held it together while all they wanted to do was grieve. Grieve for the part of their friend they had already lost and the part they were about to lose.

Burnard's characters are real people with raw emotions and many flaws. I didn't really have a favourite character, but Sandra's crisis was the most heartbreaking. She faced her challenges bravely and with dignity. I had a little trouble getting a read on Jude. I liked her, but sometimes she felt standoffish and rude. I loved reading about the women's friendship through the years and how it affected the lives of their husbands and children.

The story had me thinking of who I'd want with me at the end of my life and what I'd want to say or remember at that time. I thought of loved ones who have passed away and wondered whether or not they were comforted (or bothered) by those around them.

Favourite quotes:
...everyone must find a way to endure the present and to imagine the future.(book jacket)

Always say no, automatically, because it's a lot easier to move from no to yes than to find your way back to a no after they've got your yes.(page 17)

...her rage waiting just offstage, the eager, warmed-up understudy read to go on.(page 154)

Highly recommended. I'd definitely be looking for more books by this author.

Here's another review by Jonita at the Book Chick.

For more information about this book or to Browse Inside, please visit the HarperCollins Canada website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Bonnie Burnard's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at HarperCollins Canada for this review copy.

Suddenly by Bonnie Burnard, HarperCollins, ©2009. ISBN 9780002254946(Hardcover), 317p.


  1. I enjoyed this book as well, but I seem to remember having some issues with it. A book with similar themes, which you may enjoy (emphasis on "may" because we don't always love the same things!) is "So Much For That" by Lionel Shriver. I LOVED it.....I suprised myself with how much I loved it. Worth checking out!

  2. This sounds marvelous! Thanks for your review.

  3. Sounds like a wonderful read. I often enjoy books that showcase the strength of friendships.


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