It’s 1951, and society has started to settle back into its usual rhythms after the upheaval of the war. For 14-year-old Maisie, though, everything is in flux. Her father, who served as a chaplain in the Netherlands, is a shadow of his old self. One of Maisie’s close male friends has stopped speaking to her. And, having no interest in the latest hairstyles or celebrities, she is struggling to find common ground with other girls her age.
When Maisie leaves her home in Duncan, B.C., and heads to Kingfisher Island for her annual visit to her grandparents, she’s looking forward to swimming; long summer days with her best friend, Una; and a relatively steady lifestyle. But when Una shows up wearing sophisticated new clothes and nursing an intense crush on an older boy named David, Maisie feels lost. When David comes to visit, Maisie goes to great lengths to keep Una all to herself – and nearly destroys their friendship in the process.
Through Maisie’s beautifully developed character, Governor General’s Literary Award winner Kit Pearson examines themes of trust and honesty, showing readers that while telling the truth can be extremely difficult – and sometimes even dangerous – keeping secrets, or living in denial, is usually far worse.
Maisie’s fractured relationship with her father offers a perfect lens for exploring these issues. After a vicious argument with Maisie, he finally tells her about his traumatic wartime experience. Only after sharing his story is he able to start taking steps toward dealing with his psychological damage.
More than anything, though, Be My Love is about self-discovery. With the help of her supportive and understanding Aunt Maud (who fans will remember from companion novels The Whole Truth and And Nothing but the Truth), Maisie begins to understand her sexuality. With the realization that her romantic feelings for Una are valid and normal, she finally finds the peace and confidence she’s been looking for.
As in her previous books, Pearson’s talent for building complex, historically accurate settings shines through. Her research is evident in the description of Maisie’s father’s enlistment, the depiction of Vancouver high society, and in her portrait of life on the island. Pearson deftly weaves in historical details, adding interest and context but never threatening to overwhelm the story itself. She also has a wonderful gift for depicting the inner lives of her teenage characters in a thoughtful and compassionate manner, while never shying away from the hard questions. Be My Love is a fantastic addition to the Kit Pearson canon.