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The Juliet Stories by Carrie Snyder
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The Juliet Stories (edition 2012)

by Carrie Snyder

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315357,052 (3.92)11
Member:bookwormjules
Title:The Juliet Stories
Authors:Carrie Snyder
Info:House of Anansi Press (2012), Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Canadian, Read but unowned
Rating:****
Tags:Canadian Author, Canadian Lit, Fiction, Nicaragua, Governor General Award - Finalist, Governor General - Finalist, Governor General Award, Short Stories, Women Writers, Library Book, Read

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The Juliet Stories by Carrie Snyder

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Showing 5 of 5
This is a series of related stories told by Juliet, who at the beginning is 10 years old and travels to Nicaragua with her family during the Contra war. Her family consists of her parents Gloria and Bram and her two younger brothers Keith and Emmanuel. Her parents work for some sort of American NGO that is fighting against the American involvement in the Nicaraguan civil war. The children's lives are interesting, they are very self sufficient as they are often left to fend for themselves as their father is out of town or their mother is coming unhinged. Juliet is mature for her age. Each story is another aspect of this family's life as they travel around Nicaragua or return to a farm in Canada, where they settle. Juliet is a very capable story teller and the author writes very well. Tragedy strikes when the middle child develops cancer and dies. This is too much for Gloria who leaves for the west coast. The stories are well written, the characters are well developed and interesting, in particular the grandmothers. I find it got a little draggy towards the end, otherwise, worth the read. ( )
  MaggieFlo | May 27, 2014 |
Thrust into the strange and potentially dangerous locale of Managua, Nicaragua, in 1984, Juliet is at the mercy of her activist parents’ desires and her own nascent hopes and fears. Along with her two younger brothers, Juliet experiences the chaos and confusion of radical upheaval, but also the singular acts of kindness and beauty that are present, perhaps, everywhere.

Beautifully told in an immediate, almost raw, style, the stories may stand alone, but together they form a linear structure as Juliet moves into adolescence and beyond into adulthood. Life remains unpredictable even after Juliet and her family move back to Canada. Love, desire, death, fealty and falsehood – Juliet experiences them all. Some things she comprehends, some she does not. And ever she appears to be groping toward some kind of future, some clarity about herself and what she will do with her life.

The first half, especially, is tremendously affecting. The second half is less direct, less lived, more told, less certain, and possibly more challenging. It would be hard to say which I prefer more. Or perhaps I’m simply confessing that I have been won over and would gladly follow Carrie Snyder wherever her narrative voice might lead. It would be hard not to expect, or at least hope for, great things to come from this author. Recommended. ( )
  RandyMetcalfe | Dec 9, 2013 |
I couldn't get into this book which is a pity because I really wanted to like it. There were moments which intrigued me. The premise of a young girl being dragged off to a foreign country by politically-conscious parents and the effect this has on the rest of her life is an intriguing one, but I found the plot rather predictable. Dysfunctional family, love-hate relationships all around, Juliet's destructive tendencies later in life: I felt like I'd read the book before. Countless times before.
  Gayle_C._Bull | Feb 25, 2013 |
I enjoyed this book quite a lot. Although it was a book of interconnected short stories, it all flows together well. While it doesn't completely flow together in the same way a novel does, you still get the effect of the full story you would see from a novel. Well developed characters and plot were both throughout the book, and neither were sacrificed because the story was told like a collection of short stories. In fact, I think it added to the story itself, and how much I enjoyed it because it was told like a collection of interconnected stories, rather than a novel, because although there are gaps between stories, the author managed to fill them in quite nicely.

Juliet was an interesting character, who was well created and developed. I really enjoyed being able to follow her from a young girl through to adulthood, and how the events in Nicaragua and in Canada shaped her as an adult. I don't think the reader would have had the same experience with Juliet and her development if it weren't written like a collection of interconnected short stories.

Very enjoyable read, I hope to see more from the author in the future, as I will definitely be seeking out more books by her.

Also on my book review blog Jules' Book Reviews - The Juliet Stories ( )
  bookwormjules | Nov 3, 2012 |
The Juliet Stories by Carrie Snyder should be on all the prizelists this coming season.

It is like the puppy described later in the work: tough and nippy in parts, lively and new in others.

“Love for the animal rushes through Juliet for its newness, its capacity for destruction. She bends to the puppy’s snarl and snap. She gathers its surprising and lively weight into her arms, against her chest: fur tough, claws smooth, rolls of fat around its ribs. It nips her ear, and a tooth catches on the tiny silver ring Juliet wears in the lobe, and the wince of pain gleams.”

Give it a good home and read it now, so you can say that you have a copy without the awards stickers, because you knew it was inevitable.

It will most definitely be on my list of Favourite Reads for 2012. (I have a lot, lot, lot more to say about this novel, here on Buried In Print. Please check it out.) ( )
  buriedinprint | Aug 29, 2012 |
Showing 5 of 5
Writing a novel as a series of short stories is a challenging project...Reading such a story also proves challenging; the central hook is not a tight, propelling plot, but rather the deftness of the writer’s craft.Snyder’s new book is the rare successful execution, a stream of sensual imagery that grows more sophisticated with each page.....Ultimately, despite its lushness — or perhaps because of it — this book demands much from readers, and may frustrate those who expect an A to B progression of drama. For those who endure, the textured imagery, heavy with meaning, provides its own reward.
 
The Juliet Stories is a well-crafted and imaginative novel-in-stories that explores and reflects back on the impact of a few monumental years in the life of the book’s namesake. It combines straight-ahead realism with fractured, dream-like prose, in a successful exploration of the merits and pitfalls of family life....The prose shifts as well, as Juliet becomes more of a distant third-person narrator, and we are let more closely into the minds of other characters
 
This all makes for very rich material....The book unfortunately slips during its second half when the Friesens move to an unnamed city in an unnamed province in Canada and Juliet turns from child to adolescent to young adult. In the process, the year-and-a-half her family spent in Nicaragua gradually recedes into the background, and Snyder’s occasional attempts to show the impact of this experience on the development of her central character feel contrived. Juliet does not so much develop as stagnate. In Nicaragua, she is a likeable child, a voracious reader and careful observer, but the predominant trait of her adolescence and young adulthood is a haughtiness more appreciated by the narrator than the reader. The writing sometimes becomes frustratingly poetical. Characters do not simply drive, but sail “on the burning wings of excavated fossil fuels.” Similes become increasingly idiosyncratic and fail to enhance their details — a farmhouse’s cellar is damp like “the inside of a lung.” Meanwhile, the present tense, through continued use, loses its former immediacy and turns monotonous. All of this makes the reader pine for the very rich material and stronger writing of the book’s first half: We miss Nicaragua as much as Juliet does.
 
Like her first book, Hair Hat, Carrie Snyder’s sophomore offering is a collection of linked short stories. Here they are arranged in a novelistic arc, following the titular heroine from a childhood caught between foreign languages and continents to the quiet joys and terrors of adulthood. While laid out chronologically, each story is strong and vibrant enough to stand on its own....While The Juliet Stories deals with emotionally and politically charged themes, Snyder’s prose style and story structure seldom feel manipulative or argumentative. She avoids aestheticizing trauma and instead offers strong characterization, clear and lushly poetic language, and above all, the kind of nourishment that comes from a moving story, beautifully told.
 
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Epigraph
There is the house we all inhabit
the house which is the body and only the body

Where ghostly families in the corridors of blood
record their odd abbreviated histories

Then there is the yellow house and the doorway and

The child standing in pool of yellow sunlight
the bright blood shed by the sun at sunrise.

-Gwendolyn Mac Ewen, " The Yellow House"
Dedication
For Christian, Clifford, Karl , and Edna, my sibs
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Juliet Friesen is ten years old when her family moves to Nicaragua. It is 1984, the height of Nicaragua's post-revolutionary war, and the peace-activist Friesens have come to protest American involvement. In the midst of this tumult, Juliet's family lives outside of the boundaries of ordinary life. They've escaped, and the ordinary rules don't apply. Threat is pervasive, danger is real, but the extremity of the situation also produces a kind of euphoria, protecting Juliet's family from its own cracks and conflicts. When Juliet's younger brother becomes sick, their adventure ends abruptly. The Friesens return to Canada only to find that their lives beyond Nicaragua have become the war zone. One by one, they drift from each other, and Juliet grows to adulthood, pulled between her desire to live a free life like the one she remembers in Nicaragua, and her desire to build for her own children a life more settled than her parents could provide. With laser-sharp prose and breathtaking insight, these stories herald Carrie Snyder as one of Canada's most prodigiously talented writers.
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