The Juliet Stories, Carrie Snyder
House of Anansi Press, 324 pages
When Juliet Friesen is ten years old, her parents Bram and Gloria announce that the family is about to embark on an exciting and important adventure. It’s 1984, and Ronald Reagan has declared war on the communists. Communists, according to Juliet’s parents, are people who share everything, so in Juliet’s eyes, the President of the United States has essentially declared a war against sharing. To make matters worse, he has sent soldiers to kill Communists in a faraway country called Nicaragua. Juliet’s parents decide that someone needs to stand up to Reagan, and that someone is the Friesen family. They join The Roots of Justice, an organization that believes Reagan will stop the fighting in Nicaragua if the country is suddenly flooded with ordinary Americans. The Roots of Justice help the Friesens relocate, and once they are settled in Nicaragua, direct the family to the areas most vulnerable to attack.
Life in Nicaragua takes its toll. The Friesens don’t speak much Spanish, they don’t understand basic rules of the culture, and they don’t have a way of integrating easily into their surroundings. When they head into conflict or when conflict finds them, the immediacy of the danger is overwhelming. Eventually, it becomes clear to Gloria that protecting Nicaragua means jeopardizing her family, and when her elder son becomes seriously ill, she and the children leave for a safer life in Canada.
Despite her mother’s desire for security, the eighteen months in Nicaragua has provided Juliet with an extremely vulnerable foundation on which to build her adult life. In a heartbreaking, engaging, and beautifully written collection, The Juliet Stories follows Juliet through her adolescence and early adulthood as she tries to create a life that accommodates her past without allowing it to completely define her. Snyder’s latest work will appeal to readers of Miriam Toews and Barbara Kingsolver.