Fake It So Real
Susan Sanford Blades, 234 pgs, Nightwood Editions, nightwoodeditions.com, $22
How does a young person learn what it is to be a woman, when her mother seems to care more about the bottle than her daughters? How does she navigate relationships with men when she has never known her own father?
Fake It So Real, the debut novel from Victoria, BC’s Susan Sanford Blades, is one such double coming-of-age story of a young, free-spirited but troubled mother and her daughters. The story follows the women as they navigate the world (or western Canada) without the vagrant punk rocker who left his young family without warning, shortly after he decided the party was over. Gwen, the mother, drinks on instinct. The elder sister escapes to somewhere far, far away. And the youngest, Meg, seeks to substitute romance for the paternal love she hasn’t had, following her instinct to get physical with men who remind her of her father — or at least of what she imagines him to have been, “Her father’s ghost traces a thumb from her hip down the crease of her thigh,” Blades writes. “The wind off the ocean blows up her skirt and she feels exposed to the waist, like a wave has crested between her thighs.” However, this story is not only about the father’s protagonistic absence. In its best moments, it is about the bond between a family of three women. Through mistakes and the occasional tender moment, the reader enjoys a peek at the complicated threads that bind them all.
The writing is admittedly patchy. Blades is overly descriptive, and the book unnecessarily switches from first-person to third-person between chapters. However, Fake It So Real invited the reader on a less-than-glamorous spin through womanhood at the margins. From young to old, through poverty and comfort, and with requisite love and heartbreak, one ends up rooting for these women who could not be more different — yet are connected by something more than blood.