Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Interviews, Recommendations, and More

You Remind Me of Me

A recommended reading list by author of novel The Game of Giants.

Book Cover The Game of Giants

Marion Douglas's novel The Game of Giants is up for giveaway until the end of May.

Check out our Giveaways Page for your chance to enter, and to check out everything up for offer right now.


All of the work I have made reference to in this discussion has, in one way or another, reminded me of me. Upon first reading, these stories and essays went straight to my chromosomes and attached. And because, coincidentally, my own writing reminds me of me, upon a second, third or fourth reading of these works, I was able to zero in more clearly on these intimate connections.

Book Cover The Elizabeth STories

The Game of Giants is about belonging and how we know when we do and how we know when we don’t. Rose, the central character, imagines all the ways Roger, her son, might be excluded, judged, ridiculed and exiled. In Isabel Huggan’s story, “Celia Behind Me,” (from Huggan’s The Elizabeth Stories) one borderline outsider child beats up another; the cruelty of shunning is worked upon the most vulnerable by the next-to-most. I think often about the many channels of anger and hatred.

In The Game of Giants, on one of Rose’s early outings with the infant Roger to the grocery store, a woman, observing Roger, offers up a “Rowf” by way of comment, adding, “That’s an unusual looking little sausage.”  Although this woman, with her perfectly matched green shoes, socks and flamboyant eye shadow, is perhaps herself a little eccentric, Rose contemplates ramming her cart into the woman’s ankles and seethes. “Outside, I mentioned to Roger that I hated everyone.” At home, nursing Roger, Rose thinks, “I loved the feral ferocity with which he latched on…Roger’s mouth and my nipple were members of a very old organization which had welcomed us, no questions asked. Then I pictured the woman in green shoes and imagined punching her with leather boxing gloves.”

Book Cover Modern Fables

In “The Wake”, from her book of essays, Modern Fables, Mikka Jacobsen describes a missed opportunity to connect with a boy, Kyle, she knew in high school and for a period after graduation “when those who had already been sinking, would sink, and those who had been given swimming lessons, coaches and parents in the stands would lap the drowning rest of us.” When Kyle dies a few years later, as predicted, Jacobsen attends a chaotic wake which evoked for me memories of social class ambiguities, not clearly belonging to one class or another, waiting for a sign, watching as events “got out of hand.” I love anyone who can write about the subtle human echolocators for social class, for why are you here anyway?

When Rose and Roger, at baby swim class, are seemingly ignored by one mother and child, Rose infers “and something rose up from the water between Roger and me and the others, a recognition in the bulbs behind the nose of inarticulate organized flight.” Rather than allow Roger’s heart to suffer its first beating, Rose leaves the class. In the in-between places, “on the edge of things,” as Jacobsen says, “part of me knew this was precisely what disaster looked like.” In situation after situation, Rose conspires with herself to avoid what she perceives to be approaching horrors.

Book Cover A Hard Witching

“The Ghost of Ingebrigt Lake,” a story by Jacqueline Baker from her collection A Hard Witching, is about a forty-something rural man, Wesley, still living alone on his parents’ farm, a scenario familiar to anyone who has grown up in the country. On a snowy night, a group of four local teenagers gets stuck in the ditch and come to Wesley’s house for help. He sees himself through their eyes, his obvious solitude, his visible separateness, and realizes that the one boy, the first to arrive, “is scared of me.” Without a wife, a group, obvious connections, he has become someone feared by the young.

Early in The Game of Giants, Rose takes in a homeless man, Joe, who comes to represent Rose’s fears for herself and Roger. She imagines that Joe may have been in some way contagious, that Roger looks like him, that she and Joe and Roger are all clearly different and a kind of billboard for how not to be.

Book Cover Wilderness Tips

Margaret Atwood, in “True Trash” from Wilderness Tips uses the setting of a boys’ summer camp to write about exclusivity and the meaning of mother. On this island peopled with boys and men, nine waitresses, the only females at the camp, serve the food and clear away dishes, “safely aproned…nine mothers.” The sole outsider waitress, Ronette, the true trash, although out of step with the others, “as if she’s a foreigner… knows other things, secret things.” She has signaled she is interested in sex. Sought out by the counsellor, Darce, who is overheard referring to Ronette as summer sausage, she becomes pregnant and is, predictably, discarded socially after the summer camp ends. Atwood concludes, with irony, “It’s a story that would never happen now.”

Along with themes of belonging, I set out to write about mother, the word, the loads of attached freight, the fixed doctrine that a mother must be good. In The Game of Giants, set in the 1980’s, Rose thinks of leaving, sneaks around with a possible lover and is generally imperfect. It’s a story that happened then and still happens now and yet mother never changes.

Book Cover If You Are REading This

Sheila Norgate reflects upon her complicated relationship with her mother in the memoir, If You Are Reading This. Norgate’s mother was distant, as was my own, as is Rose’s. Although my own and Rose’s mother both communicated their dissatisfaction obliquely, Norgate’s mother actually took annual camping trips on her own, “her vehicle packed with the planned precision of D-day.”

Intermittently, Rose takes off, her car packed with the imprecision of someone not planning to stay. She knows, of course, that a father who abandons hearth and home and children is considered bad; but for a woman, a mother, to engage openly in even small rehearsals of escape would be more than bad, close to criminal and surely a sign of mental illness. 

It’s a story that happened then and still happens now and yet mother never changes.

Book Cover Tiny Lights for Travellers

Speaking of which, as Bell advises every January, let’s talk about mental health. Naomi Lewis, in Tiny Lights for Travelers, retraces her grandfather’s journey out of Nazi occupied France, which makes for an interesting story. However, I connected most with her candid talk about anxiety—anxiety about getting lost, anxiety about minor physical imperfections, anxiety about where she belonged and best fit in. When sharing that her ex-husband often said he loved her because she was funny, Lewis writes, “On no, I thought, don’t love me because I’m funny. You should love my soul, and my soul isn’t funny. My soul is a deep, dark pit. Or maybe my soul is funny. Maybe my soul is funny and my anxiety is a deep, dark pit. But why would anyone love a deep dark pit? Anyway—I don’t believe in souls.”

Afflicted with the anxious certainty that Roger, in adulthood, without her protection, will not enter into the funnel of the everyday, Rose worries he will be with those “at the edge, the outer left edge… sliced off; the way is not prepared; they fall away, like Joe, like Roger will if he does not use his words.” Rose derives very little comfort from her partner Lucy’s certain belief that Roger, like everyone else, has a perfect and immortal soul. Eventually Rose finds support and connection with other mothers of atypical children who confess to their vulnerabilities and worries. These are the tiny lights she locates on her journey.


Book Cover The Game of Giants

Learn more about The Game of Giants:

A novel about the unpredictability of parenthood, a journey into the unchartered territory that is having a child, especially when that child turns out to be different.

Rose Drury has just learned that her son, Roger, is below average—at the third-percentile rank, according to the pediatrician. Co-parenting with her partner, Lucy, in a 1980s Calgary only just starting to accept same-sex relationships, Rose works to unearth her own desires from the quagmire of directives from others, while she grapples with the implications of Roger's developmental delays.

Though Rose herself is a developmental psychologist and knows all of the "right" answers and "correct" things to do, she finds that she is all too human, struggling with the many social forces that converge on a mother of a kid who is different. With humour and desperation in equal measure, Rose reviews her life history for the definitive moment that could explain how she and her son got to this point.

In this sparkling and empathetic novel, Marion Douglas digs into a young mother's uncertainty, fear, and hard-won wisdom as she and her son—an odd and lovable giant of unpredictability—forge a path forward.

Comments here

comments powered by Disqus

More from the Blog