The first sentence of Griffin Poetry Prize-winner Anne Simpson’s novel begins with a fall. Teenager Lisa tumbles off a four-wheeler, her body pinned underneath in a small stream while her brother, Damien, drunk on swimming and sun, dozes nearby. A year later, Damien and his mother Ingrid travel to Niagara Falls, a place that captured Lisa’s childhood imagination, to scatter her ashes and to visit Ingrid’s brother Roger, a now-blind former daredevil and his mentally disabled son Elvis. When Elvis---who seems to only exist to move the plot along---runs away, Damien discovers him in front of a tattoo parlour. Then he sees Jasmine, another lost soul, through its window. An intense relationship begins and almost immediately falls apart. Each character stumbles around swallowed by their own grief and pain. No surprise here, Falling’s real strength is not in plot but in Simpson’s poetics---music is sprightly like curled fiddleheads; jellyfish, as large as purses, are scattered like organs. Even descriptions of birthday cake icing are blessed by Simpson’s gift. This is a despairing novel, connected by masterfully crafted scenes and quiet moments. Catch Simpson reading at noon on Saturday at the Spring Garden library, as part of Halifax International Writers’ Festival.
Sue Carter Flinn