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Luck

by Joan Barfoot

ISBN 0676977006 / 9780676977004 / 0-676-97700-6
Publisher Knopf Canada
Language English
Edition Hardcover
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Book summary

Joan Barfoot's witty 10th novel (a runner-up for the 2005 Giller Prize) opens with the discovery of a dead body. Philip Lawrence, a 46-year-old furniture maker, has died quietly during the night, lying next to his sleeping second wife, Nora. This "remarkably mild and merciful, even enviable, ending" can be construed as a final piece of luck for a man whose life has rarely strayed from the course of good fortune. But for the three women left behind in his unconventional household, Philip's unexpected demise introduces some rather ambiguous possibilities.

Luck describes, with black humour and a mischievous sense of the banality of death, the first three days post-Philip. The point of view of the newly widowed Nora, an artist who stole Philip from a casual friend when he was young and lithe of figure, intersects with those of her live-in artist's model, Beth (who secretly despised him), and Sophie, the buxom housekeeper-cum-accountant (who secretly loved him). Happy-go-lucky Philip, it quickly becomes apparent, elicited strong responses from the women in his life, and one of the tensions in this erudite and entertaining novel is which woman's vision of Philip will ultimately prevail.

Yet while Barfoot delves deep into the recent and even distant pasts of her three female characters, she spends less considerably energy developing the action of her contemporary story line. It's as if having assembled Philip's would-be mourners together in one room, she's not entirely sure what to do with them. It's not that nothing happens--each woman runs into a bit of luck that sets her on a new path--but there is a tenuous, drifting quality to the plot that makes one yearn for the decisive presence of, say, a Philip. Too bad he's dead. --Lisa Alward [via]