Tag Archives: Rodent – novel

The Telling of a Heartache that a Young Girl must Endure | Review of “Rodent” by Lisa J. Lawrence (2016) Orca Book Publishers

Rodent

We all don’t live fairy-tale lives. Many of us have issues to deal with that are difficult and ugly which take their toll on us emotionally. The same counts for many young people. So why should they have to endure fairy tales when their lives really “suck” and they need some way to better understand their world around them. Lisa J. Lawrence has written a book that reflects a grittier side to a young person’s life called Rodent.

Page 6-7

There have been five schools in the past three years, not to mention all the ones I passed through before I even hit junior high. I’ve seen it all. If I keep my head down, after two more years of this I’ll be free. Then it won’t matter if Mom has a good day or two when she finds a new job, drags us off to some other hellhole, the brings the whole thing crashing down. I won’t be a puppet in this stupid game anymore.

I don’t realize how hard I slam my locker until the girl next to me jumps. I give her a look like, What? and march off. Then I have to pull out a map of the school because I have no idea where I’m going. English. Room 102. Okay

When I find it, I make a beeline for the back row, which is already taken by other students trying to be invisible or goof off. I end up sitting in front of a tall guy with a mop of dark hair and glasses that look like they belong in the sixties. He’s reading a thesaurus. To my left, a chubby girl with stringy hair picks at her split ends. I think I’ve found my corner.

We are thrown into Isabelle’s life right at when it’s most traumatic. She is starting out in Grade 11 and facing all the usual teenage problems that come up in young girls lives. But she is also the caregiver to her younger brother and sister while her mother suffers from alcoholism. We witness Isabelle face crisis after crisis while we silently see the tension take their toll on her emotions until she snaps.

Page 10-11

“Pick it up yourself,” I say again, louder. Something grinds inside me. The redhead flees.

It happens in an instant. The blond narrows her eyes and moves to take a step toward me. Between the eye-narrowing and when she lifts her foot, I form a fist. I know how to make a decent fist. My cousin Jacquie taught me – thumb on the outside, knuckles not too tight. It has served me well, especially at these ghetto schools I usually end up in.

The blond opens her mouth to say something, shoulders squared for a fight. Before she can get the word out, I slam her in the face. She staggers back into the arms of her friends. Grabs her nose to stop the gush of blood spraying down her turquoise tank top. Shock is all I see on the face of every single person, including her. They weren’t expecting this. Ice floods my gut. Tears form in her squinty eyes. Then something else, something I recognize instantly: rage.

Lawrence has capture a big slice of the human condition by bringing the story of Isabelle forward. The lifestyle endured by the main character does actually exists as does much of the responsibility and the angst she has. And Lawrence hasn’t tempered the language for publication at all. She has Isabelle talking and thinking the way a teenager talks and thinks today. Easy enough for any reader to relate too.

Page 122

Monday morning. Will’s eyes light up as I drop my backpack by my desk. He doesn’t look away, waiting for me to give something back to him. A word, a smile. something I barely nod at him before sliding into my seat. You don’t want this, Romeo. How could I think for an instant that he could be part of my world?

I picture Will sitting on the ugly sofa as Uncle Richie hurls beer bottles and we all scatter like cockroaches. Isn’t that what every guy wants? Congratulations, Will. You just won yourself a nice, dysfunctional family. Even worse if he tried to help, to fix. The girlfriend who’s also a project. It’s for his own good that I walk away. He’ll never know about the Molotov cocktail he just avoided. Still, the ache in my chest makes it hard for me to lift my head today.

Gritty. Honest. Bold. These words certainly describe this story. But most importantly Lisa J. Lawrence’s Rodent has captured a slice of life that a good number of people (not just teens but adults) have to endure. This book should start a number of conversations and great deal of soul searching by many. Exactly what a great piece of literature should do.

*****

Link to Orca Book Publisher’s website for Rodent

Link to my Q&A with Lisa J. Lawrence – “I think most of my inspiration . . . comes from those very human moments that can happen anywhere”

“I think most of my inspiration . . . comes from those very human moments that can happen anywhere” | Q&A with author Lisa J. Lawrence

New authors are always exciting to discover, especially if they are out to engage new minds. This past week Lisa J. Lawrence launched Rodent, a gripping novel aimed for the teenage set. Lawrence grew up in several different locales in British Columbia and Alberta.  She now resides and works as a teacher in Edmonton.

*****

1) First off, can you give a bit of an outline of Rodent?

Rodent is about a sixteen-year-old girl, Isabelle, who is essentially the caregiver for her mother and younger siblings because of her mother’s alcoholism. She tries to keep everyone alive and together as her mom bounces from job to job and they move from friends’ basements to shelters to sketchy apartments. Rodent begins after one of these moves. At the same time, Isabelle starts grade eleven at a new school. That brings a lot of new, unexpected things for her—both good and bad.

 

2) Where did you get the inspiration to write Rodent? Was there much research involved in writing it or was it more of a work of ‘pure imagination?’

The spark for Rodent came one night when I was putting my youngest daughter to bed, who was three or four years old at the time. After going through the bedtime routine and tucking her in, I thought, “What would it be like for a child to have to do all of this?” I started thinking about circumstances in which children care for other children, playing an adult’s role. From there, it was mostly a work of imagination. I had a couple of teenaged “consultants” who I would bounce things off of from time to time! I know a RCMP officer who was kind enough to answer my police-related questions. I also read some accounts of children living with a parent with an addiction.

3) I know it has been a short while since Rodent was released but how has the reaction been to it so far?

So far, the early reviews and feedback on Goodreads (Click on link here) have been positive. That’s a great feeling. When you share your story with others, you hope they’ll like it or at least relate to it in some way.

4) Who are your favourite writers? What are you reading right now?

Margaret Laurence held the title of favourite for a long time. I’m all over the place these days. I hate to be a cliché, but I adore the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. I was a late bloomer; all the movies were out before I started reading any of the books, and then I was hooked. I felt a little depressed when I finished them all! I also enjoy Susan Juby, especially her Alice trilogy, and some Neil Gaiman. I loved Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpoole. With my daughter, I’m currently reading A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. In the near future, I hope to tackle Seven the Series.

5) Is there much planned in the way of public readings or book-club events for Rodent? If yes, are there events you are excited to be attending?

I am looking forward to a launch for Rodent at Audreys Books in Edmonton on May 14th. It’s my first launch, and I’m excited to celebrate with friends, family, and anyone who would like to attend! I also plan on doing some readings at local schools. I’m open to participating in other events that may come up as well.

6) Are you working on anything new right now? If yes, are there details you care to share?

I’m currently finishing a manuscript about a thirteen-year-old girl with Turner syndrome. I’ll just say it takes place in northern Alberta and involves some highly unusual circumstances!

7) You have an active fan page on Facebook right now. Will you be using it to keep in contact with fans? Will you be expanding to any other social-media platforms like Twitter or Pinterest?

Yes, the Facebook page is new. (Click here for link) It’s been pretty quiet so far, as I get things going, but I hope to use it to keep readers informed about upcoming readings, etc. I’m eyeing Twitter as well, but I don’t think I have a really good feel for it yet! Maybe it’s the word limit that gets me.

8) Your biographies have you listed as living in Edmonton. How do you like living there? Does its cultural life offer you much in the way of inspiration for your writing?

I love Edmonton. It’s been my home for about twenty years now. I think most of my inspiration, though, comes from those very human moments that can happen anywhere: feeling left out, restlessness, overcoming something difficult, making an unexpected connection. I grew up in a small town (Stettler, AB), and a lot of inspiration comes from there as well. Having said that, I do love Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre and Fringe Festival!

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Link to Orca Book Publishers webpage for Rodent