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Believe Me

by Patricia Pearson

When he’s not begging for KFC and inquiring whether spitting on a plant can make it grow, five-year-old Lester has started to ask his mother some troubling questions: “How do people get to Heaven, do they walk?” “What does God look like?” “When I’m an angel, will I have my eyeballs?” “How big is my soul?”

Unfortunately, Lester’s mother, the protagonist of Patricia Pearson’s sequel to Playing House, is still puzzling out the complexities of plastic coffee lids (the dent is there to keep the flap down while you sip!), let alone the afterlife. Frannie Mackenzie has never read the Bible, the Koran, or the Talmud. And her thinking on death – quite sensibly– ranges from “scary” to “go away.”

But Lester has nowhere else to turn for existential guidance. His dad Calvin is too busy dealing with the recent passing of his own father to be of any use. Granny is sick in the hospital. His uncle David is struggling with marital angst. To find God, or at least some reasonable substitute for her son, Frannie embarks on a yearlong spiritual quest.

Like those of the saints, Frannie’s journey is replete with sacrifices and tests. Trying to keep her giggle-reflex in check during mass, for instance. Or suspending her disbelief during sessions with a suburban shaman named Larry. Then there’s dealing with her ailing mother-in-law, who thinks her neighbour has stolen her turkey, is sure she’s got terminal arm cancer, and insists on calling her Nancy.

Pearson’s wit is in fine form throughout. As are her observations about everything from the quirks of small-town life to the daily rhythms of motherhood. Most importantly, Believe Me captures the persistence of our childlike wonder at the world. Is there anything larger than us? Why is there pain? What happens when we die? Whether we answer these questions or not, Pearson’s novel suggests that grappling with them helps us define what matters


Reviewer: Julie Traves

Publisher: Random House Canada


Price: $29.95

Page Count: 288 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 0-679-31345-1

Released: May

Issue Date: 2005-3

Categories: Fiction: Novels