Finalist for the Amazon Canada First Novel Award
A Globe and Mail Best Book
A Quill & Quire Best Book of the Year
Olive Kitteridge meets Room and The Lovely Bones in this stunning first novel about the unexpected reverberations the abduction of a young woman has on a small community.
When Catherine Reindeer mysteriously vanishes from the parking lot outside the restaurant where she works, an entire community is shattered. Her fellow waitress now sees danger all around her. Her mother desperately seeks comfort in saying her name over and over again. Her professor thinks of her obsessively. Her husband refuses to give up hope that she will one day come home. As we move back and forth between those who knew Catherine intimately and those who barely knew her at all, So Much Love reveals how an unexpected disappearance can overturn everything for those left behind.
But at the heart of the novel is Catherine's own surprising journey of resilience and recovery. When, after months of unimaginable horror, a final devastating loss forces her to make a bold decision, she is unprepared for everything that follows. Woven throughout Catherine's story are glimpses of a local poet who was murdered decades earlier, a woman whose work becomes a lifeline for Catherine during her darkest hours.
A riveting novel that explores the complexity of love and the power of stories to shape our lives, So Much Love confirms Rebecca Rosenblum's reputation as one of the most gifted and distinctive writers of her generation.
About the author
Rebecca Rosenblum just graduated from the English and Creative Writing Masters program at the University of Toronto. Her work has been published in Exile Quarterly, The Danforth Review, echolocation, The New Quarterly, Qwerty, Ars Medica, and Journey Prize Stories 19. Once, her first book, won the Metcalf-Rooke Award for fiction. Rebecca lives and writes in Toronto, Ontario.
Excerpt: So Much Love (by (author) Rebecca Rosenblum)
It seems disloyal after all these years, but I’ve got to start buying different mascara. The Lancôme one I’ve always used wears so nice and soft—heavy makeup makes a woman my age look like a harridan—but it isn’t waterproof, and I’ve been crying all spring.
When Catherine first disappeared in March, everything was still frozen, but within a week the spring melt began. Rivers of slush ran down the edges of every street and the police came again and again, tracking dirty slush into my foyer. They doubted that an adult, a grown woman with a job and a husband, could be taken—as if such violence were kiddie stuff, or showed a lack of willpower. They kept asking questions about any unhappiness with Grey, an affair, secrets I can’t imagine my daughter would keep from me. Or him. I can’t imagine any of it. And so, helpless, clueless, I wept and wept.
After four weeks, the police don’t feel the need to visit anymore. Like with a bad boyfriend, I call them if I think of anything new to tell them or just to check in, but they never call me. Things are changing, the world is stuttering forward, and these constant tears have to stop.
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I can cry at night, alone in my big bed full of pillows—perhaps I always will. But I’ve got to be stronger during the day. It will be a relief, maybe even a blessing, as Seva would say, to be back at work, thinking and talking and making people’s lives slightly easier by helping them with their banking. I want to spend the day with people who have never had the person they love most snatched away from a parking lot; I want to pretend to be one of them.
I’ve been such a reliable employee for so many years that Janie has been generous about my leave of absence, even coming by for tea with some of the other girls from the branch. Not that anyone knows what to say, but they’ve come over the past three Friday afternoons, bearing pumpkin loaves and coconut brownies, little bits of news from work, and encouraging smiles. If Catherine had died, if she’d had a straightforward car accident on an icy night or a fall while hiking in the mountains, there would have been some discussion of God, I’m sure—all of that “everything happens for a reason” nonsense, but it would have filled in the silences. I’m not religious, and Seva and Leanne know that, but it’s what they rely on in bad times, and I rely on them. We’ve all been working at the same branch since the strip mall opened.
Even if it had been a more uncomfortable thing, a drug overdose or driving under the influence—and we have certainly had our share of such tragic idiocies around here—there are things you can say. About forgiveness, about moving on, about appreciating the time we had. About never doubting the value of memories.
But Catherine’s disappearance is nothing but doubt. No one knows who would do her harm, but equally no one knows why she would run off. Both options are impossible, and there is no third. There is nothing to say, no question left to ask. I read the poetry Catherine likes—the book she forgot on the sofa, and another by the same poet that I got from the library. The poems are about plates of pasta, cats in the dark, vegetable gardens—nothing to do with me, but they are something that she loved. And they are something to think about other than the empty space where my daughter used to be. No one wants to talk about that, but my colleagues aren’t that interested in poetry either. So on this, the fourth Friday since my daughter disappeared, I ask the ladies about mascara.
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I wait until they’re gone and I’m at the sink washing dishes before I let myself follow my thoughts as far as they’ll go. It’s dangerous to think of Catherine too much, especially when I’m alone. If Grey were here, we’d pick one little topic and go over every detail—how she could never be bothered to blow-dry her thick, heavy hair, how even at the end of the day when she took down her ponytail there would still be a trace of damp. Or that woman poet she liked so much—or maybe she didn’t like her, but she was reading her books over and over in the weeks before . . . before. She was like that, so much energy, you didn’t always know what she loved and what she just felt strongly about. We can talk and talk about Catherine, Grey and I, and almost always manage to stop before one of us breaks down. We can do that because we both love her equally, if such a thing is possible.
Alone, I worry I’ll go too far, think too much, and then not be able to get up off the floor. But remembering my beautiful girl is devastatingly tempting. Oh, my Catherine. So interesting. So lovely to think about. Her strange theories of how the world works. The rare moments when she wouldn’t do the expected, “normal” thing. Her refusal to get a student loan, so horrified of debt that she took only the courses she could pay for in cash, which was why her degree was stretching out into its seventh year. Her contempt for her friends who competed in figure-skating competitions. Her childhood terror at the idea of French immersion.
She was only four when the neighbourhood school mailed me a flyer about French immersion classes—it seemed a wonderful opportunity to me. One night on the back porch as we played shadow puppets I told her that next year, when she went to school, she would get to learn French. In fact, I had the bunny shadow say it, hopping up and down the crumbling brick of our back wall. I even improvised a French accent, told her she would love French, mais oui.
But Catherine unclasped her hands from making the goose shape and squawked angrily, “No, I will not. I will not learn French.”
I was baffled—still so inexperienced as a mother even after four years. Though Wayne had never contributed much in the way of parenting, he had left only six months earlier and I was feeling especially unmoored. I tried to explain the benefits of learning a new language, something different and exciting, something I myself would have loved to have done. And Catherine in her pink-and-white overalls just plopped right down on her bottom and wailed. I can still picture her hot wet face, sobbing that she would never “say that stuff,” that she only wanted to say “true words.” I never found out where she got the impression that French was a scary language or even where she learned that French was a language.
Years later, she laughed at the story and claimed not to remember her tantrum. When I pressed, she said, “Iria’s a pretty small place, Mom, and I’d never been anywhere. I probably thought I’d have to move away to learn another language.” She was giggling—I hope I laughed too, although I can’t remember that part. The memory of Cat is clear, though—I recall her grinning pink-lipstick mouth as clearly as I recall her childish panic. My memories come into clearer focus every day—I suppose it’s the longing that makes me conjure her so strongly.
They would have let me say all this and more, Seva, Leanne, Janie— they would have listened all afternoon and been glad to. But so much has been taken from me, I have to keep some memories for myself.
"So Much Love approaches its subject and tells its characters' stories with so much heart and sharp efficency that you can sit down with it for a day and feel a shift in the way you look at life.You will not want to put it down. . . . This is a page-turner of a different sort. This is not a thriller. This is a meditation on life and love that thrills. . . . This is a feat." —Globe & Mail
"Emotionally resonant and strikingly written. . . . Rosenblum's novel meditates on connections and community, loss and love. Beautiful, affecting, and striking, this powerfully assured debut novel is literary fiction from an author who also shows herself to be the capable architect of a complex and rousing story." —Quill & Quire
Advance Praise for So Much Love:
"A marvellously assured, multi-layered page turner. Chilling. Brilliant." -- Barbara Gowdy, author of Little Sister
"Elegant in form, So Much Love does what only fiction can – it gives a wide view of a horrific crime and shows how it fractures a small community. In a world of slippery truths and narrow perception, this beautiful, taut, and chilling story feels necessary and true." -- Claire Cameron, author of The Bear and The Last Neanderthal
"Compelling and superbly crafted from start to finish, So Much Love is a thoughtful and disturbing look into the deep layers of a crime and its aftermath." -- Diane Schoemperlen, author of This is Not My Life
Praise for Rebecca Rosenblum:
• "A writer who's intent on probing the mysteries of self and other through the related mysteries of fiction. . . . Rosenblum's work impels us to a fresh experiencing of life." -- Globe and Mail
• "[Her stories are] at once compressed, poetic, and precise. . . . Rosenblum can register the aching and melancholic, but with a remarkable lack of sentimentality. . . . [She is] a young author of singular talent." -- The Walrus
• "Rosenblum cuts as close to the bone as possible in her construction of sentences, paring away all but the most essential words." -- National Post