Pages and Patches Review of Dollybird

Pages and Patches
Reviewed by: Devin Pacholik

Posted by Pages and Patches at 16:09

Nov. 2 2013

By Devin Pacholik

Dollybird  Author: Anne Lazurko

“The whole place was built on just such moments of grace, small mercies making up for the endless difficulty and disappointment.” This is the revelation of Moira Burns. She is a doctor in training, whose family forces her to move from Halifax to Saskatchewan at the turn of the 1900s. Saskatchewan at this time, as Moira learns, hinges on the forces of patriarchy, gossip, unrelenting weather and the “small mercies” of chance and kindness.

Dollybird, by the first-time novelist Anne Lazurko, is an addictive and deceptively simple story that conveys the beauty of human obstinacy.

Moira, a progressive woman of science and practicality, is sent from home by her family after becoming unforgivably pregnant. She is to give the baby up, away from the judgement of the neighbours. Lazurko compresses the mood of the century, which is festering with superstition, tradition and misogyny. This is a time when the social maladies of the day are dressed in the airs of proper society and honour.

Lazurko is an astute writer who has a knack for crossing the boundaries of different perspectives.

The other main character is Dillan, a man of faith and fear. After losing his wife, Taffy, to typhoid shortly after giving birth to their son, Casey, Dillan moves west on the same train as Moira. Dillan and Moira meet after confronting their own struggles on the prairies. 

Moira reluctantly becomes a dollybird for the single father in an act of desperation to survive.

A dollybird was a kind of practice housewife for single men trying to establish a homestead during this time. This station is generally frowned on by the locals, and their negative opinion is compounded by the fact that Moira is expecting her own baby. 

Dillan’s guilt over the death of his wife and Moira’s disappointment that she has failed her father, the doctor who taught her despite the fact that she is a woman, becomes the grounds on which a complicated relationship is formed.

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