Acclaimed local author Kimmy Beach has done it again with her deeply imaginative, newly-released novel Nuala.
A launch for the book, which will include a reading, is set for March 24th at The Coconut Room (located in Sunworks downtown) starting at 7 p.m.
“I’ve never done anything like it – it’s unlike anything I have ever written,” she said during a recent chat to discuss the incredibly compelling tale. “It was a joyful (experience) to write because I knew that I had hit upon something new – not new to literature, but new for me.”
The story of Nuala – an enormous and towering wooden puppet of sorts who struggles to find meaning and connect with the community she has been awakened to – unfolds in an even and increasingly enchanting way. It’s all wonder and glistening newness at first for Nuala and her many servants, including one of the book’s primary characters – ‘Teacher-Servant’.
But those fresh, new and sparkling experiences are slowly overtaken by other, darker feelings.
Teacher-Servant begins to have doubts about his role, and grows – in ways – to resent Nuala’s steady stream of needs and her at times frantic intrusions into his thought life.
There are hints of weariness, simmering resentment and even jealousy as the plot unfolds. From the start, the book has the power to take a reader on a journey that is wonderfully image-laden. We can easily see Nuala’s world.
Readers can picture what she looks like as she is taken for walks with her myriad of servants and supporters; as she learns about her new world. Readers are also taken into the raw and even stifling intensity of her emotions – Nuala feels everything from bursts of elation to frustration to despair and dreary disillusionment. So even though she isn’t ‘real’ – what she experiences and feels is very much real – and that’s what helps fuels the novel’s overall appeal and accessibility.
Interestingly, we can relate to her and to Teacher-Servant as their relationship evolves, deepens and ultimately changes so drastically.
With Beach, who has long had an interest in these exquisite giant puppets that are a huge hit around the world, you get the feeling that every single word has been meticulously chosen.
Sentences flow naturally and beautifully, but there’s a distinct clarity there also – there is a sense of structure which is just intrinsic to her style. It’s always polished but crackles with authenticity.
The subject matter helps bring these sentiments forward. “Puppets are such a great metaphor for ourselves,” explained Beach.
There is such a poignancy to this book – there is pain, a growing sense of isolation, loneliness. It’s also a study in relationships – how fragile even the deepest connections can be.
And how sometimes we are helpless as we watch what we thought was an unbreakable bond begin to crack. It’s all presented in incredibly descriptive manner. Take this sentence, for example, from Teacher-Servant – “I drop the book to the floor. I cannot concentrate; her dreams are fists to my sternum in blasts of colour and noise. She dreams of her great feet, free of shoes, walking to the sea. She dreams of wading, and the waves created by her every step are large enough to drown five men my size.”
Beach’s past titles, Nice Day for Murder: poems for James Cagney, Alarum Within: theatre poems, fake Paul and in Cars all resonate with similar attributes that reflect her strengths as a writer and a communicator. And for Beach, the writing of this particular book has proven an exciting challenge – and, as mentioned, one that is admittedly unlike what she has tackled before.
“With Bond, for example, I knew exactly what I was doing. I was in my realm – pop culture dissection,” she pointed out with a smile. “That’s what I do. So this time, all of a sudden I’m not doing that. This is different.”
And so far, the response has been very encouraging. Beach has done a few readings and folks are finding what they are hearing to be enticing. They want to hear ‘the rest of the story’.
“I look at my books and think, okay, they aren’t perfect. None of them are, and I would change things about every single one of them. But I trust who I was at the time that I wrote at them. I look at them with affection. I’ve also seen what an amazing thing that I’ve been allowed to do,” she said with gratitude of her life as a writer. “That I get to do this.
“So I look back and think yes, I’ve made progress on this journey. It’s just a matter of honing my craft. I’ve just stuck with it, and I’ve never stopped learning.”
Copies of all of Beach’s books are available at Sunworks in downtown Red Deer, or through the University of Alberta Press. Check out www.uap.ualberta.ca.