Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Memoir easily blends humour, gravitas

  • Print

TWENTY-EIGHT-YEAR- OLD Kingston, Ont., writer Ian Reid faced a dilemma: what to get his 92-year-old maternal grandmother for her birthday?

His big brother suggests that the one thing Reid has is time -- why doesn't he take their grandmother on a trip?

Winnipeg is floated as a possible destination -- their grandmother grew up here -- but Reid recoils at the prospect of cold, crime and mosquitoes.

Ultimately, he decides on a "road trip," which really amounts to taking his grandmother from her home in Ottawa to stay with him at his apartment in Kingston for a few days.

This unlikely vacation is detailed in Reid's brief, well-written account, a followup to his popular coming-of-age memoir, One Bird's Choice (2011).

What makes The Truth About Luck memorable is its blend of humour and gravitas. It is both very funny and, at times, very serious.

Reid has a self-deprecating sense of humour. He sprinkles witty observations and asides throughout the narrative.

He describes sitting in a Vietnamese restaurant with his grandmother where the hostess, a Vietnamese woman, refills his glass of water the moment he takes a sip from it: "She smiles and nods as she does it," Reid writes. "It's a strange dynamic, and my instinct is to simply mimic her behaviour. I grin and nod back. We grin and nod together, thanking each other. I think I've said thank you 40 times already."

But, as noted, this is more than a humorous memoir. Reid, in his conversations with his grandmother, addresses serious topics like aging, the meaning of life and death, and memory.

Reid had previously known his grandmother primarily as a listener, but on this trip she opens up and reminisces about her life.

She recalls her experiences in the Second World War, in which she served as a nurse.

She relates some memories of Winnipeg in the 1920s. "In the winter there were outdoor rinks all over," she tells her grandson. "The girls were supposed to just skate around while the boys played hockey. That's just the way it was. Can you imagine that? I hated that!"

The title of this book is somewhat curious. Reid's grandmother frequently describes herself as lucky, but the significance of this is never fully explained. Another quirk is that Reid never mentions his grandmother's name, referring to her throughout as "Grandma."

Inkling

Only when she is relating a wartime experience in which someone calls her "Nick" do we get an inkling of what her name is.

Reid concludes with some observations about his grandmother's longevity, which he attributes to her interest in others and focus on being practical.

This funny, thoughtful memoir is highly engaging. Reid's interactions with this elderly woman are sometimes awkward, sometimes profound, but always entertaining.

Graeme Voyer is a Winnipeg writer.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 23, 2013 J8

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Paul Maurice addresses media at end of 13/14 season

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Two Canada geese fly Wednesday afternoon at Oak Hammock Marsh- Front bird is banded for identification- Goose Challenge Day 3- - Apr 30, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Goslings enjoy Fridays warm weather to soak up some sun and gobble some grass on Heckla Ave in Winnipeg Friday afternoon- See Bryksa’s 30 DAY goose challenge - May 18, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you think Manitoba needs stronger regulations for temporary workers?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google