Loren Edizel’s new novel, Adrift belongs to a clutch of fine fiction from TSAR Publications, a small publisher which gives voice to the stories of newcomers in our midst. These include Ava Homa’s Echoes From the Other Land (Iran) and Dawn Promislow’s Jewels (South Africa) both reviewed here. Edizel was born in Turkey, but there’s no telling the ethnic identity of her protagonist John, the sort of person city dwellers glimpse from time to time as we hurry along our way: a loner from elsewhere, someone scribbling in a notebook at a lonely cafe table, riding the bus home from work at dawn, ten years working the night shift as a nurse in a Montreal hospital.
John is the story’s central character and the centre of an unsolved mystery, the hub of questions that keep the pages turning. Where is he from and why is he here? He’s helpful and conscientious, spending most of his down-time at the hospital (and elsewhere) scribbling thoughts and impressions in his notebook, a man who wanted “to be an explorer in the vast silences of the world.”
John has the kind of intuitive antennae that would drive a less stable person nuts. He tends to Romeo, a dying man who calls for his non-existent wife; in his notebook, John invents a story for him, including his deathbed confession of a life spent pining for a longed-for beloved. “Every life distils into something,” John thinks. “Something tangible that will not be carried away by the currents of oblivion, but will remain there, a stubborn reminder of all things ethereal.” Later John learns that elements of his fiction were facts gleaned from the soul of a dying man. Meanwhile, in a story that echoes his imaginings of Romeo, he’s smitten by September, his beautiful neighbour across the road whose lover, Salvatore, is a married man. Yet even in solitude, John has friends and he continues to weave his unconscious web of connection, drawn to the unfulfilled longings of others that echo and resonate throughout the novel. Mrs. Liu, whose tragic yet courageous life has brought her the satisfaction of a loving daughter and grandchild; John’s old girlfriend Selma in Sweden who’s just broken up with her wealthy husband Thomas, a rich womanizer now on the make in Montreal; Ben the drug addict whose life John tries to save.
Through one anonymous man flows a stream of energy and connection; loves and sorrows real and imagined, an echo chamber of longing amplified in John until he’s startled by the painful memory of leaving his beloved long ago. In the end, he seems like a mythic bird in flight, free at last of his own unacknowledged suffering. “It occurs to him…that life, with all its mornings, evenings and mysteries is a fluid; a silent current made of water and blood flowing unseen through everything, incessantly, a current we tirelessly attempt to hinder with houses and roads and objects, like so many pebbles in a stream, until it is all carried and washed away.”
This is a poignant, beautifully written novel that speaks to the depths of loneliness and the grace of human connection.
Adrift by Loren Edizel is published in Toronto by TSAR Publications (2011). For more information, go to http://www.lorenedizel.com/