Reflections of a Book Addict was recently approached to join the blog tour for Dinner With Lisa by R. L. Prendergast, which we eagerly accepted! Kim is the usual fan of historical fiction on the blog but after reading the synopsis for Dinner With Lisa I convinced her to let me take the lead on reviewing this novel. I was really intrigued by the unique mix of history (Great Depression era) and the infamous Mona Lisa. The cover alone was definitely enough to pique my interest! So, with all that sorted out I began reading, not quite knowing what to expect.
Joseph Gaston is a nearly 40-year-old widower who tragically lost his wife 6 months ago when birthing their daughter, Clare. Additionally, he has three other children ranging from 4 to 11 years of age. Jobless during the Great Depression, Joseph is desperate to gain financial security in order to survive and provide for his family . His brother Henri convinces him to travel to Philibuster, Alberta with the promise of a job and childcare for his children there. Unfortunately for him, the job does not materialize, and he barely gets by with some assistance from Henri and his sister-in-law Tilda. Joseph endures hardship after hardship, and confronts complex issues of racism and poverty that were prevalent throughout the Depression era. Desperate to save his family, Joseph nearly gives up his children in order to give them a better life, when he learns about Lisa. Angry and at the end of his rope, he tries one final act that he hopes will put and end to all of his suffering. What is it? What will happen to his family? What will happen to Joseph?
Upon finishing this book I had a newfound respect for those who lived through the 1930’s, more commonly known as the Great Depression. Most of our experiences with said era are via Of Mice and Men or old pictures of families in trucks piled high with belongings driving across the dust bowl. Yet when you actually look at how difficult it was to live day in and day out, it’s a miracle that so many were able to keep going despite the constant challenges. Not only were there physical challenges for Joseph, such as how to feed all his children or look after them while he is out job hunting, but there were immense emotional and mental challenges that I could never imagine. Trying to keep a clear head and endure an endless stream of setbacks and roadblocks must have been incredibly draining and disheartening, yet Joseph is able to keep going in hopes that he will give his children the life they deserve eventually. Prendergast writes in the style of a classic, with immense detail that is a great testament to the large amount of research that he must have put in to create this novel. Yes, it’s not filled with action scenes or nail-biting suspense, but the honest and fantastic language that he uses to describe Joseph’s plight and Joseph’s tenacity throughout it all was incredibly well constructed. Kudos to Prendergast for giving us a real and gritty look into a slice of history that is often overlooked. I know I will never see it the same way again!
4 out of 5 stars
Dinner With Lisa by R. L. Prendergast
Dekko Publishing (2011)
Paperback: 280 pages
Special thanks to R.L. Prendergast for sending me my review copy!