Quill and Quire


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by Dede Crane

The dancer is like a wounded swan, her graceful neck bowed in the catatonic state that followed the gruesome deaths of her son and husband in a car accident. She is admitted to the Rosewood Clinic in Washington, D.C., to be treated for post-traumatic stress disorder by Michael Myatt, a doctor whose unconventional therapies have produced good results in the past.

The dancer, doctor, and healing program are the three central pegs on which Dede Crane hangs her elegant and carefully crafted first novel. In addition to the daily details of Kerry Taylor’s pre-trauma life as a ballet dancer and career bulimic, Crane fills in her past with memories of the son and husband she lost. Entries from Taylor’s diary reflect a woman who was about to make some major life changes at the time of the accident. They also reveal serious problems in her marriage and the depth of her connection to her former dancing partner, Hugo (inevitably, gay). Dr. Myatt threatens his precarious position within the clinic with an ill-considered affair with a co-worker and his failure to understand his own past. And then there are Myatt’s other patients, major and minor, each with their individual tragedies and struggles.

Crane deftly choreographs her many players, moving them into fresh configurations, giving each a turn on centre stage. She shifts settings from eastern U.S. to Victoria and juxtaposes institutional life with the fraught world outside. Her own experience as a dancer and choreographer and a student of psychokinetics solidly grounds every line. But the novel’s real strength lies in Crane’s characters – not necessarily likable, but multidimensional, quirky, utterly believable, and shaped with compassion.


Reviewer: Maureen Garvie

Publisher: Raincoast Books


Price: $24.95

Page Count: 352 pp

Format: Paper

ISBN: 1-55192-781-0

Released: Jan.

Issue Date: 2006-3

Categories: Fiction: Novels