*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: A Brief View from the Coastal Suite
Author: Karen Hofmann
Publisher: Newest Press
Publication Date: April 15, 2021
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Set in Vancouver during the economically turbulent year of 2008, A Brief View from the Coastal Suite explores the Lunds’ differing values in respect to relationships, money, and environment – all markers for a materialistic society that is becoming increasingly inhospitable. Cleo struggles to find time for her challenging job as an architectural designer and for the demands of her family; Mandalay, an artist and single parent, tries to raise her twin sons uncontaminated by the materialistic values of their lawyer father; and Cliff attempts to run a landscape company with his spoiled younger brother, Ben, and to accommodate the ever-increasing demands of his Estonian mail-order bride.
Hofmann is back with the sequel to her book What is Going to Happen Next. The writing that I fell in love with in the first book is as strong as ever in book two. Where her first book was an introduction to the characters of the Lund family, her second delves further into their lives as some time has passed and they try to build and maintain relationships with one another. The only sibling we don’t hear from directly is Ben, signalling his separation from the family from infancy. Although he has reconnected with his biological siblings, he still remains distant from them, and the reader as well. He is there through the lens of others for the most important events, but always at a distance.
The greatest thing about Hofmann’s writing is her ability to portray whole, tangible, realistic characters who are studied and thought out until they’ve become as lifelike as they can be. You almost forget as you read through these pages that they are fictional and are not real people. Second to her characters is her setting and her world-building. Set in Vancouver, BC and surrounding area, Hofmann breathes life into her world rendering her story so lifelike and believable. Having visited the area myself a few years ago, I felt transported back there through the pages of this book. This novel is full of strong visuals and distinct descriptions, creating a largely visceral experience overall.
My only criticism? Well, I have to admit that I was supremely let down by the ending. While I appreciate authors leaving us with a “well that’s life” kind of attitude, I always appreciate when there is some kind of closure, and I felt cheated of that with A Brief View. It’s almost as if Hofmann lost the last chapter or two before the book went to publication. Without giving spoilers away, to me it felt as though the novel stopped just shy of resolution, leaving the reader hanging, only to imagine what the end might be. Now, perhaps Hofmann has plans for a third book to this series which would help bring some closure, but at the current moment, I’m feeling a bit let down. There is such great build up and momentum throughout and it is cut short at the very last moment. Sigh.
Still, Hofmann is a voice to be reckoned with. Bringing to the Canadian literary landscape a story of family, loss, devotion, devastation, and parenthood, A Brief View is the perfect continuation to a beloved and quintessentially Canadian story. I hope we’ll get to see more in the future.