Complex mother-daughter relationships drive Gillian Cummings’ first novel, a story of family secrets and the struggle to rise above grief. Sixteen-year-old Sandy Rawlins’ world is falling apart. She is coping with the recent loss of her father, her mother’s strangely distant behaviour, and a feeling of detachment from the world.
Palpable tension exists both in Sandy’s home and that of her best friend Lennie. As secret histories and old scars are uncovered, we realise there is more to each woman than initially meets the eye and join them as they seek a path to understanding and redemption. At times the author is a little heavy-handed in her control of the subject matter, but on the whole, Cummings successfully builds an affecting sense of the disconnection between mothers and daughters.
Cummings’ construction of the characters is insightful, the dialogue fitting and believable. Each lead character is revealed to us via symbolic details through which readers gain an intimate understanding of her personality, feelings, and state of mind. When Sandy hurls a snow globe at the door closing behind her departing mother, it is not only the object that is shattered, but also the girls’ illusions about her mother.
Cummings sets Somewhere in Blue in her hometown of Toronto, and a strong sense of place is evident throughout. Descriptions of the houses, streetcars, parks, and city life give this story subtle colour without overwhelming the plot. In fact, the “character” of Toronto becomes central to Sandy’s healing.
Somewhere in Blue is a moving debut, and shows Cummings to be a strong and promising new voice in Canadian young adult literature.