In Margaret Gibson’s powerful first novel, a daughter’s poignant attempt to understand her dying father illuminates both their lives. Writer Maggie Glass watches her father fade into the murky realm of Alzheimer’s. To understand the man Timothy Glass was, Maggie pieces together fragments of his life, and, in doing so, gradually tells her own harrowing story. Spanning decades, the novel brilliantly interweaves the strands of a family’s past and present, vividly evoking an Ontario farm in the ’30s; the North African desert in wartime; a hospital in British Columbia, where a returning soldier’s dreams for the future alter irrevocably; Toronto in the ’50s, and in the decades that follow. Infused with startling imagery and with language that cuts straight to the bone of meaning, Opium Dreams is a moving and life-affirming novel from one of Canada’s most gifted writers.
Margaret Gibson received instant acclaim on the publication of her award-winning first collection of short stories, The Butterfly Ward (1976). One of the stories from the collection, “Making It,” was made into the now-classic movie Outrageous, starring Craig Russell; another, “Ada,” was made into a CBC-TV movie, directed by Claude Jutra. This was followed by two highly praised collections, Considering Her Condition (1978) and Sweet Poison (1993). The story of her own custody battle for her son was made into the TV movie “For the Love of Aaron.” Her most recent short story collection is The Fear Room (1996). Opium Dreams, her first novel, won the Chapters/Books in Canada First Novel Award in 1998.
Margaret Gibson died in Toronto in February 2006.
“A finely crafted novel about memory, its complex layers and the power it holds over individual lives.…A haunting testimony to the power of love and the ties that bind.”
–Winnipeg Free Press
“Occasionally, you come across a novel that goes off in your head like a letter bomb, a warning from a stranger; a shock of tremendous intensity. Opium Dreams is such a book.…A brilliant and moving book that expresses a profound humanity.…”
“Opium Dreams is like a broken sheet of glass on a summer beach: Glinting in the sun, reflecting clouds and sky, it is often beautiful, occasionally dazzling, but always painful to walk across.”
–Jane Urquhart, Globe and Mail
“The truths in this interwoven tapestry of lives are painfully close to the bone, yet the poetic vision is leavened with beauty, hope and mercy.”
“She writes with sharp beauty and ruthless insight, but, above all, with love.…The novel moves beyond blame and despair to a noble vision that has always infused Gibson’s work, a vision of human courage, survival and hope.”
–Merilyn Simonds, Montreal Gazette
“This is a beautiful book.…Both wrenching and rewarding to read.”
–The Edmonton Journal
“The rich prose mirrors the complexity and power of family life, but it also gives the reader a sense of recognition for the personal paths we all must follow.”
“Gibson writes in a voice that rings absolutely true.…”
–Books in Canada
“Although Margaret Gibson is not yet a household name among Canadian authors, she should be.…A powerful writer who skirts the edges of the macabre, Gibson’s beautifully, darkly lyrical prose causes the reader to pause, often with astonishment, as her luminous story unfolds.…”
–London Free Press