Sunday, November 06, 2005

Personally, I enjoyed many aspects of this novel. The slightly darker and angrier tone in the main charater's dialogue made the story feel more real and added to the development of Carl, who eventually shows his emotion at the end of the book. I also enjoyed how Cohen included a small circle of friends and acquaintances for the character to talk and associate with. Doing this helped create a feeling that this is a "small town" story, since West Gull only has 700 residents. Cohen also did a good job of creating a broken family feeling for both Carl and Lizzie through dialogue and actions of the respective characters.

I would improve this book by not have having gone into so much depth in awkward places in the book. For example, at one part of the book, when Carl has just been knocked out onto the pavement, Cohen writes excessively about Carl's dreams and thoughts about his mother's ghost and Adam's crying. This is not the only time in the book that Mr. Cohen begins to talk about one thing and continues to write in great deal about something that will not matter to the storyline.

In conclusion, I would recommend the novel "Elizabeth And After" to anyone looking for a great work of fiction, full of character study and powerful human emotion. Just be prepared to spend several nights forcing yourself to put it down!

Carl is given the responsibility of living with Lizzie in West Gull, while Chrissy goes to Toronto to live with her aunt and to attend business school. Chrissy sees Lizzie every second weekend and on holidays.

Carl was promoted and now works with Luke at the Richardson shop. One day, after dropping Lizzie off at school, he recieves a not from Adam, who had loves Elizabeth once. After reading the note Carl begins to cry, since it contains an in-depth discription of what his mother had done that night at the party and her last words she said to Adam, as well at details on the accident.

Chrissy calls Carl one afternoon to ask how he is doing. Carl tells her that he is recovering well, and Chrissy tells him that Fred has been acting very agressive and starting a lot of arguments lately. Carl tells Chrissy that it was Fred who attacked him that night, and Chrissy agrees to leave Fred.

This all takes place at the end of the third part of the book. As of now, Carl has decided to stay in West Gull perminently, as he now considers it to be home. Fred won the election and became the reeve of West Gull and Carl never told the police that it was Fred who attacked him that night.

The police question Adam, the last person who had been in the movie store before Carl was beaten. He suffered a concussion and broke several ribs. Adam tells him what he knows, that he saw Fred and Carl talking, then he left. The policeman goes to question Fred.

When Adam goes to visit Carl the next day, he is surprised to hear that Carl hasn't told the police that he knew it was Fred. He says that he would never win in court, since Fred is liked by most people and is running for reeve.

Human anger plays a big role in the development if the characters and plot of this novel. The main character, Carl, seems to be overrun with anger because of what happened to his mother, he is angry recently because of the incedent with his daughter's cat, and other characters are angry too, like Fred for example.

It seems that Matt Cohen wanted to write his story about characters who were put into situations that cause anguish and anger, like Carl and the death of his mother. This core of anger is the central part of the book.

While lying on the ground in front of the video store, Carl tries to wave to passing cars for help, but nobody sees him. He touches the back of his head and realizes he is bleeding, and quickly falls into unconsciousness.

While asleep, Carl has visions of Adam in the cemetary beside his mother's grave, crying. Carl awakes to find Adam actually standing over him. He helps him up and opens the store door with the key, calls an ambulance and calls the store's owner, Luke Richardson. Fifteen minutes later, the movie store was swarming.

Carl works at the video store in West Gull. The usual people usually come and go to get movies, but the busiest nights are on weekends. One Saturday, Fred, Chrissy's new boyfriend, comes in to get a movie. He starts to give Carl a hard time and says that he should behave himself, since he has heard that Chrissy and Carl seem to be getting along better now than they did before. Carl replies by saying that he doesn't have to be told what to do.

After he closes down the store, Carl hears a sound behind him and realizes that it is Fred, but he gets punched to the ground and doesn't have time to hit back. Before Fred speeds away in his car, he tells Carl that it will be worse next time.

"He had come back to start something new, but he was sinking into everything that was old, sinking into it so deep that he might as well be climbing into his mothers grave. Or his own."

This quote is from the first chapter of the third part of the book. Carl feels like he came home to start a new life, but sinking back into old trends. He takes care of his daughter, but his old friends keep coming back. They were the people Carl wanted to forget, since they hardly did anything with him but drink.

When Carl tells Chrissy that he has decided to ask out Moira, the woman who looks after his father at the retirement home, she says that she would be jealous if he was going to date anybody new. Carl gets angry and says that they broke up years ago, and since Chrissy is liiving with Fred, he doesn't understand why he can't see anyone new as well. As he is about to hang up the phone, Chrissy calls him "baby blue", which was what she used to call him when they were still married.

These two events add to making Carl feel like he is sinking back into old trends.

I think that Matt Cohen created an entire section of the book about Elizabeth's murder because it not only helps us to see what it must have been like for Carl, our main character, but because there was so much of her life that most people didn't know about until her death, and by allowing the reader to see these details, the character of Elizabeth and her entire family seems more human. If the author had decided to leave out details about her past, and her death's impact on her family, we would just think of them as fictional characters, but now we see them as people much more like ourselves.

For the first time in the novel, Elizabeth McKelvey's murder is discussed in detail by the author. Since the first chapter we have known that Elizabeth died in a car crash, but very few facts had been listed.

Elizabeth was married to William McKelvey, but during their marriage she was having an affair with a man named Adam who was several years older than her. The two of them had met in secret for many years, and although everybody had seen them together, many believed them to be friends, since Elizabeth was married and Adam was so much older.
Adam was the last person Elizabeth had seen before she died. She was driving home from a christmas party of the Richardson's one winter night when she crashed into a large oak tree because of the ice on the road.

She was found dead immediately and when her body was pulled from the wreckage, Luke Richardson called Adam and Elizabeth's family.

While he is talking to Ned, who is now crying uncontrollably about the crime he committed, Carl's friend Ray comes over. They both continue to explain to Ned that Lizzie trusted her father with her cat for 3 days while she went to her friend's house, and now that it's dead, she may lose trust in her father. Ned says that he will behave from now on, as long as he gets dug up and can go home. Carl digs him up and lets him go.

The next night a woman from the retirement home comes to visit Carl, telling him that his father wants to see him for lunch the next day. Carl agrees and offers the woman a coffee. As they sit and talk, he tells her about his mother's death and the impact it had on his life. She leaves when Carl tells her about Lizzie and that she is the only person left in his life that he cares about.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Carl comes home that night to his old house and finds that Luke Richardson's son, Ned, has killed Lizzie's cat. He knows that only Ned could have done it, since he is the trouble maker in West Gull, and also because he tries to look tough by breaking the law (in this case, breaking and entering into Carl's house and killing the cat). Carl visits Ned the next morning before Lizzie comes back home from her friend's house and forces him to help Carl around his house. He tells Ned to "think of it like community service" and says that if he agrees, he won't tell his father, who would likely beat Ned.

Ned comes over to help build Carl a fence, and digs in the ground for hours until he is allowed to leave. The digging leaves Ned with many blisters. When Carl comes to inspect the holes Ned has dug out, Carl tells him to sit in one of the holes, and threatens him with a knife. Ned does as he is told and is burried except for his head in a couple minutes.

The next night, after dropping his daughter off at her friend's house for the night, Carl goes back to a bar in West Gull that he hasn't been to in years. Walking through the door, he is hit with dozens of memories of what he left behind after he moved away; and then he sees Chrissy sitting by herself, listening to the band play. He walks up to her and they end up sitting together, and talking about what it was like for Chrissy and Lizzie to have to live without him.

This section of the story cotinues to take the book's theme of retelling the past in the present. Although it does mention the divorce again, there are also awkward moments between Carl and his ex-wife in the present while they sit in the bar. This makes the reader feel like Carl is trying his best to repair his relationship with Chrissy while trying to start his new life over in West Gull.

Monday, October 10, 2005

After lunch at the diner, Carl heads over to the retirement home where his father lives. He recalls the times they shared together before and after his mother, Elizabeth, had died. He remembers that after his mother died, his father began drinking uncontrollably and fell asleep on the floor several times, too drunk to even move.

The chapter closes when Carl is leaving his father's retirement home and remembering an argument he had with his wife that eventually leads to their separation. This is the first time in the novel that we learn about what it was like for Carl when he lived with his wife and young daughter before the divorce.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Carl takes a seat at a diner near Adam's store and orders breakfast. This is the first time he sees his old house for sale, when he is reading the paper. He considers buying it, and renovating it so that there would be a big family room for Lizzie when she would come over. Also while sitting in the diner, he starts to browse through the personals section. Luke Richardson shows up soon after he finishes eating and offers him a place to stay for a while, until he can find a steady job and adjust to life back in West Gull.

Once they are at the park, Carl talks to his daughter about her family and about when he was a young boy. He tells her about how his mother used to be his teacher and Lizzie runs ahead to play on the monkey bars.

After he meets with his daughter, Carl goes into town to meet with an old frien of his father's, Adam Goldsmith. Adam had offered to give him a job a few years ago when he was running low on money from his divorce. The two get into a conversation about Carl's father, and the way things have been happening around the town since Carl left.

As the second chapter continues, Carl continues his trip towards Wes Gull, and almost gets hit by a truck as he is speeding down the highway. He decides to pull over to the side of the road and look once again at the letters he has recieved from his daughter over the past few years.

When he finally reaches the small town, he sees his ex-wife for the first time in a few years, which creates some tension between them, but seeing Lizzie again gives Carl an excuse to leave as he heads out to the park with his daughter.

Monday, October 03, 2005

In chapter 2, the character of focus turns to Carl McKelvey, William's son. He is living on Vancouver island, many thousands of miles away from West Gull and is talking on the phone with Chrissy, his ex-wife. She tells him about his father's time with the car and how the doctor expects he will be alright. She then tells him that their daughter, Lizzie, wants to see her father again and since Carl wants to do the right thing, he packs up and heads for West Gull to visit his family.

As the first chapter continues, we learn that as he was heading down to the river in his stolen car, McKelvey accidently gets the car stuck in the mud. One of his friends happens to be boating by and sees him and offers help. Once on board the boat, the two don't talk much, but McKelvey seems lost in thought and their topic of discussion turns to fishing. The chapter closes when McKelvey is sitting and telling the story of the stolen and trashed car to a man named Luke Richardson, who happens to be running for reeve because he is power hungry.

In the first chapter of the story, we learned about William McKelvey, a retired man living in a small town in rural Ontario. His wife passed away years ago in an accedent, although it is not mentioned how she died. McKelvey decided to steal a white Pontiac that happened to be parked near his retirement home one day, and he drove it to where his house used to be. While he was there he remembered the times he had in that house with his wife and son, and these memories seem to both fill him with sadness and reminiscence.