Sara Flemington's Egg Island
Reviewed by Kimberley Gilmour
Oh Romeo, Oh Colt, and hey you, yes you, Julia—with flashing eyes, wise colours of silver, and a hip attitude towards farewell. Julia is a modern female Icarus drawn by every sunset that she encounters. Julia refuses to go home, and during her adventures, she encounters a diaspora of Canadian characters. The textual moments prompt the reader to ask and examine. Julia gets what she wants and needs—because she has a careful response.
What is the good? Flemington writes with a philosophical style that does not disappoint. It is both metaphysical and existential—thus it is riveting. Julia is an earthshaking and stubborn character who goes about answering the question: Who am I? And how does she embrace the idiom of 'Know thyself'? She is an enigma like Atwood's character Zenia from The Robber Bride. Watch as Julia cruises through crowds like a femme fatale, or a mystery in itself. In sum, this is a striking new text replete with the descriptive tones of a successful first novel. I can't wait for more writing by this delicate yet assertive philosopher of writing.
Flemington's novel invites the reader into the fragments of tales of artists who are travelling from one town to another—with places to sleep, pie to eat, and a sharing of selves. "He looked at me in the eyes like he was going to love me then murder me, then spend the rest of his life building a shrine for me." Thus, we meet Colt.
Flemington impresses moments upon memories so that the reader enjoys this page-turner of creativity, sarcasm, irony, and even echo of the Beat poets. The energy and space of this novel are original. These characters form a compelling narrative despite being way out in left field—they create and compose the body of text like champions.
What is a gentle and daring Canadian narration that doesn't fail to thrill or impress? Whereabouts does Flemington push forward the questions of gender and development? Atwood's The Robber Bride, The Lyre of Orpheus by Robertson Davies, or perhaps Confession by Lee Gowan may feel similar to this existential text. It is very introverted, tense and mysterious, and never lacking in slow motion. The exquisite sentences about life and issues are clear and enriched with performance. Flemington relies on the sociology of the family unit and motherhood as she writes about Julia. Moreover, her comments about Canadian entertainers are superb (e.g. Jim Carrey).
Julia is a tough character of alchemy: "My name is Julia Bermuda Tillerman. I'm eighteen years old. I'm on my way to Egg Island to find my father, who's up there ..." Apparently, her distant mother and brothers have become too much to handle, and she disappears into the world by herself. Fortunately, she meets the easy-going and fun-loving Colt.
Flemington projects camping, loving, travel, and tears throughout a slow, thoughtful, and descriptive tale about eager lives and friendship that are on the run. There isn't a dull moment because of Julia's spontaneous and playful actions. What is one to do about choices when they are about 18 years of age? Julia's balanced brain type is forever both steady and spontaneous whilst Egg Island and Colt move her onwards towards the conclusion.
Colt, who grabs the escape vehicle, is about Julia's age, and together they battle the world. Their relationship reaches a point of telling tales that golden retrievers are better than hound dogs. Or, the best way to start a morning is to the sounds of flying and banging fireworks. There is much more than a shadow or a flute—or sharp philosophical wisdom. Flemington brings forth fragments of Sappho in the early morning poetics.
Julia meets Colt at a gas station while he is working for his grandfather. He steals his grandpa's car, and they drive off into the sunset—almost every night. The novel reads like an Eric Clapton song: details, love, emotions, and change. Julia eventually answers Colt's deep questions about where they are going. Apparently, life-changing questions are good for forging a great relationship.
The obsequious Colt and dreamy Julia travel throughout the narration. The elements that engage the reader include channeling spirits, dad's a space cadet, grandpa's car is missing, and we don't know if Egg Island is real or not. It appears on the map, but Julia is inventing all kinds of tales about it during the duration of this intense text. The narration's imagery is similar to Carl Sandberg or Imagist poetry. It's uncanny that she doesn't ever have a bad day, terrible luck, or difficult problems—save the one time she falls and damages her arm in the pith of the rough woods.
The utopia of an imaginary and reposeful Egg Island reminds the reader that we all have the freedom to dream and imagine our symbols and travels. We have the urge for experiencing literary rest and quiet. Flemington doesn't fail. She expresses both truth and anxiety as if they were the norm. She writes like a silver swan replete with humour and goodwill.
This novel is a text of superb prose with a poetic affect. The two main characters don't quit their trip forward, and the tales are fragments of who they meet, what is to be done for the day, and of course, the grand treat of sleep. Flemington is a careful and exact writer with acuity and alacrity, and this novel presents a song of a Canadian Alice in flux—through a tremendous focus of narration. In other words, it is an engaging new read about first love, life, and choices that shines through its descriptive sceneries of a multiplicity of interesting Canadian terrains.
Kimberley Gilmour is a freelance writer who is published in The Antigonish Review, ARIEL, and The Windsor Star. She is currently reviewing poems by Eva H.D. and Holly by Stephen King. She has a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Philosophy and Women‘s Studies from Trent University. She also has a B.Ed and a B.A. in English Literature.