Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August.– Jenny Han
Sunny Summer Solstice, friends!
Yesterday my eldest daughter completed her elementary school education. To mark the occasion as school ceremonies are shut down, she invited a couple friends to have a very “fancy” candlelit dinner of pizza, salad, and chocolate cake. We decorated the table with flowers and lanterns and the crystals my daughter collects and then Freddy and I spent the evening locked away in our bedroom so the girls could have some privacy. Before I left, I suggested they write their wishes for junior high on the leaves of our bayleaf plant for good luck. Here’s what I found in the morning:
I hope there will be a vaccine for COVID-19 soon
I hope everyone I care about is safe from all harm
I hope they let us go to school this September
The kids are alright. They’re in it all with us, but they’re alright.
I’ve always loved the longest day of the year, the first day of summer. So much so that I set a chapter of Always Brave, Sometimes Kind on the summer solstice, which, in Canada, often shares the occasion with National Indigenous Day. In this chapter, seventeen year old Miranda struggles to navigate the competing alliances she feels towards community and to following her dreams, resulting in a risk that might cost her everything.
Are you more of a sun-greeter, or a head-coverer?
I am definitely in the first camp. A couple years ago I met the longest day with a morning campfire at sunrise, and then panicked and hosed it out when I realized the people driving to work at 5am might assume the smoke coming out of my backyard was a house fire and call it in! It’s a different year with the cancellation of festivals and get-togethers. How do you usually celebrate the longest day?
Set in the cities, reserves, and rural reaches of Alberta, Katie Bickell’s debut novel is told in a series of stories that span the years from 1990 to 2016, through cycles of boom and bust in the oil fields, government budget cuts and workers rights policies, the rising opioid crisis, and the intersecting lives of people whose communities sometimes stretch farther than they know.
We meet a teenage runaway who goes into labour at West Edmonton Mall, a doctor managing hospital overflow in a time of healthcare cutbacks, a broke dad making extra pay through a phone sex line, a young musician who dreams of fame beyond the reserve, and a dedicated hockey mom grappling with sense of self when she’s no longer needed―or welcome―at the rink.
Always Brave, Sometimes Kind captures a network of friends, caregivers, in-laws, and near misses, with each character’s life coming into greater focus as we learn more about the people around them. Tracing alliances and betrayals from different perspectives over decades, Bickell writes an ode to home and community that is both warm and gritty, well-defined and utterly complicated.