Fathom Lines is the beautifully written story of three generations of women: Didiane, called Didi, married to a man who loves her so much that he leaves her to try and make her happy; Didi’s daughter Verene, who never got over the death of her husband, Claude, and seems to be sinking into dementia; and Verene’s daughter Lise, engaged to a man she doesn’t love. Told from Verene’s and Lise’s points of view, in both past and present, the novel tells the story of mothers and daughters and their search for understanding of themselves and each other.
Fathom lines are sinuous line on a nautical chart joining all points having the same depth of water and thereby indicating the contour of the ocean floor. This novel makes good use of things that are buried: Vee’s box of mementos, Lise’s study of old Toronto, hidden under the new mega-city, and the sorrows of each woman’s life. The author drills down beneath the obvious to the bedrock of the character’s soul. In many ways, “Fathom Lines” reminded me of Margaret Atwood’s “The Robber Bride” in its unflinching exploration of women’s lives.
As noted, the writing is exquisite. The book is well edited and typo free. My only quibble is that I was confused by so many characters all having names that started with V. There’s Verene, called Vee; hers sister Vivene, called Viv, and an aunt called Val. Because the story is told in both past and present, Vivene is both Viv and Aunt Viv—and sometimes Vivi; Val is Aunt Val and Great Aunt Val, and honestly, I had a hard time following who was who. Still, I rate this book 5 stars and highly recommend it to readers looking for character-driven women’s fiction that goes beyond the ordinary.