Canada Reads: And The Birds Rained Down

Canada Reads banner. Books. Canadian Literature. CanLit.

This year the theme of Canada Reads is “What is the one book to break barriers?” Some of our writers decided to join in and defend some of the short listed titles.And All The Birds Rained Down by Jocelyne Saucier. April 30th 2013. Coach House Books.

And The Birds Rained Down

Jocelyne Saucier
Translated by Rhonda Mullins
Coach House Books

And The Birds Rained Down is a short book clocking in at 160 pages. It’s definitely a quiet book but the way in which Saucier strutures it; it feels like she’s conducting a stage play of sorts. Here are our characters–three men who’ve hidden themselves away from civilization (one of them is dead), a woman on the run, a photographer in search of a story, and two pot smoking enablers of the freedom these people seek–and our scene takes place in a remote forest.

This story is about aging.

It’s about old age, not being the end, but about being the beginning of deciding how your life will be lived and what the end could mean.

It’s about control over one’s freedom and pushing yourself against the institutions created to help but that are perverted into restraints.

Psychiatric hospitals. Social Workers.

Saucier’s prose is gorgeous and Rhonda Mullins does a fabulous job at translating. I said the book is quiet, but within 160 pages, it kindles a powerful, hopeful and beautiful story about the surprises life throws at you right up until the very end. I enjoyed reading it, and was very surprised by how much. I definitely recommend reading it because it’s fabulous, and it does tackle these weird notions we have of aging, where after a certain point all is lost and elderly should give up. There’s nothing left to give us. Give. Take.

This is why exploring the topic of old age in a remote forest is brilliant, because in nature, it’s about balance. It’s about being able to give as much as you’re willing to take. These older characters are still able to give and put the work in necessary to survive and take in, and from, the forest. The forest is also freeing. It’s not civilization which is built on rules and one particular kind of structure. There’s a lot to pull back in this small book.

So do I think it breaks barriers? I think all of these books break barriers but the question is which one is the book that breaks barriers? I don’t think And The Birds Rained Down is that book. It’s still a book worthy of a read so please check it out. You won’t regret it.

Ardo Omer

Ardo Omer

Former WWAC editor. Current curmudgeon and Batman's personal assistant. Icon art by Diana Sim.