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Life’s Little Difficulties

by France Daigle, Robert Majzels, trans.

France Daigle proves that you don’t have to write conventionally to tell a story with a conventionally happy ending. The New Brunswick writer’s novels are usually non-linear and sometimes structurally and grammatically challenging, but Life’s Little Difficulties, like her last novel, A Fine Passage, leaves the reader feeling as good as the most crowd-pleasing conventional narrative.

To get there, however, the reader must negotiate allusions to events that occurred in Daigle’s earlier books, musings on the ancient orcacular text The I Ching, and exchanges between characters that sometimes consist of nothing more than “…..” when they are surprised or overcome by emotion. The elegant translation, by
Robert Majzels, flips between English and French, as does the original. This reflects the way contemporary Acadians speak, but it may be disconcerting to the less-than-perfectly bilingual reader.

The framework for this happy story is the winter when Zed sets out to transform an industrial building that is slated for demolition into lofts, an arts center, a restaurant-bar complex, and a farmer’s market. People think that Zed’s more than a little crazy, but he slowly convinces a well-off entrepreneur, his friend Terry, Terry’s wife Carmen, and many others that the building will mean enormous changes for the better in their lives and in the life of Moncton.

And indeed the project does seem to transform the characters’ lives. Zed reconciles with his stepfather, two middle-aged couples who were drifting apart find new zip in their lives, and Terry and Carmen seem on the track to overcoming all life’s little difficulties, even though Terry discovers at the end that he has systematically misinterpreted the I Ching’s advice.

Sounds too good to be true? Maybe that’s the point. Daigle has her characters comment on the fluidity of reality several times. Perhaps she is suggesting that ordinary happiness has an element of unreality about it, and, should we find it, we shouldn’t question it too closely.


Reviewer: Mary Soderstrom

Publisher: House of Anansi Press, House of Anansi Press


Price: $18.95

Page Count: 136 pp

Format: Paper

ISBN: 0-88784-700-5

Released: June

Issue Date: 2004-9

Categories: Fiction: Novels