Bow Grip – A Novel Reflection
When I’m wandering down the book aisle at the library, it’s difficult to zero in on a book with only the spine showing. Unless that is, there is a red maple leaf alerting me to the fact that the book is written by a Canadian author. As a Canadian who has just completed writing a novel of Canadian content, I was curious to see what someone else had to say about the Canadian experience.
The title alone was intriguing: Bow Grip. “What does it mean?” I wondered. When I read the back cover, I was even more intrigued. “How could a mechanic trading a Volvo for a cello add up to a story?” Then it had one of those great opening lines that makes you want to keep reading. “I would never have sold him the car in the first place if I’ known what he was going to do with it.” And so begins the story of Bow Grip by Ivan E. Coyote.
When Joey’s wife leaves him for another woman, he has a hard time coming to terms with it. His mother wants him to find a hobby, so when he’s left with this cello, he sees it as an opportunity. What follows is a slice of life story about letting go, healing, and the importance of family. Though the dream of family has fallen apart for Joey, he discovers that family can take many forms.
This is a lesson I have learned in my own life. As an immigrant to Canada in 1966, years would pass before I was able to visit my English relatives. I remember our first Christmas here, staring out the window at a cold snowy Canadian winter, with an empty feeling in my heart for those we left behind. Every spring I’d get this deep longing to fly home. But alas, it wasn’t always possible. In the almost fifty years I’ve lived in Canada, I’ve only been back three times. And during that time, only the odd relative has come to visit. While it has been wonderful to spend time with them, I have missed them more than I’ve seen them. Though I later married and adopted my husband’s family, I still miss the people I am related to by birth.
As I look around at the changing topography of my immediate family and friends, I see children leaving home, death, and sometimes divorce, has created a crack in the familial landscape. We no longer know how to inhabit our place in the scheme of things. We feel lost for a time, as we wander, and search for a new place to be at home. Then one day something happens. We didn’t plan it. It was just something that we became aware of over time. The friendship with a woman old enough to be my mother. Helping a friend with broken wrist make it to her appointments. Supporting another friend through divorce. Traveling with girlfriends. Getting together with them because it’s time to start entertaining again after raising our kids. We celebrate Mother’s Day together, holidays, and even a week night dinner so no-one has to eat alone. We support each other through illness and emergencies in the middle of the night. These are the people we don’t have to hide ourselves from. They know our secrets — good and my bad — and they love us anyway. They are our tribe, our family. And I for one, am so grateful to have each and every one of them in my life.
This picture sits on my desk. These beautiful ladies once got me up at 6:00 am one summer morning and took me to the beach where we celebrated my birthday watching the sun come up — and eating.