I'm pretty shameless and/or jingoistic in my love of Canadian fiction, and I am constantly looking for new authors and old favourites to satisfy this need of mine. So when I was in the library recently I went to the Canadian authors section to see what I could dig up. What I found was Before I Wake by Robert J. Wiersema, a novel by a Victoria writer which is also set in Victoria.
The basic plot of the novel is that a three-year old girl is hit by a truck and rendered comatose. Her family is torn apart by the accident and the subsequent medical issues that the young girl faces. Once the daughter's condition stabilizes, miraculous events begin occurring which defy explanation and her parents' religious beliefs. Simon and Karen wrestle with the consequences of their daughter's gift and Wiersema deftly explores the downsides of this miracle. He invites the reader to question their own religious beliefs without the usual preaching that often accompanies this type of content. Also the style of writing allows the reader to dive in and suspend their disbelief. The reviews inside the cover of the book led me to believe that this novel was going to be one of those books that should only be undertaken by people with an empty long weekend on their hands. It's one of those suspenseful roller coaster rides which is plot-based rather than an in-depth character analysis. That's not a bad thing. When done right, like Before I Wake, it allowed me to escape from real life and lose myself in the problems of others. Such is the beauty of reading good fiction.
As a proud resident of Victoria, I personally got a kick out of the many references that Wiersema makes to local restaurants, streets, and other landmarks. The novel has a really strong sense of place and really captures the essence of the city. Though I have read books set in Victoria, I don't think that I have ever read one that describes the city with as much detail as Wiersema does in this particular novel. Another Canadian author with a similar ability to combine suspenseful plot with a fully-developed setting is Giles Blunt, whose Ontario-based mysteries also give the reader an accurate picture of the landscape.
So in summary, the plot is so gripping there needs to be a warning label and the setting is beyond compare. Not to brag or anything.