Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Larry's Party by Carol Shields

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By mistake Larry Weller took someone else's Harris tweed jacket instead of his own, and it wasn't till he jammed his hand in the pocket that he knew something was wrong.

Title: Larry's Party
Author: Carol Shields
ISBN: 0670873926
Publisher: Penguin Books/1997
Pages: 339

This book opens in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, with Larry at 26 years of age ruminating over the tweed coat he is wearing. This particular one does not belong to him but got exchanged by mistake at a cafe. We can almost hear him aloud about his thoughts on the coat.

Right from the beginning, Larry is an ordinary guy, confused, lost and somewhat like us, with a regular life. He has a girl friend, Dorrie, whom he marries soon after. On their Honeymoon, he comes across a maze and it becomes his passion to design mazes. He leaves everything to realise his dreams and all through this, he has two broken marriages and one son.

At one glance, this book has not much to offer. It is about a very normal guy who is just like one of us and his life's path goes somewhat like ours. There ends the analogy. In its simplicity, it endears Larry to us. A guy who seems so lacking in ambition is suddenly found passionate about building mazes. He spends days, months, years developing it. His thoughts and imagination grows leaps and bounds. He has this burning zeal to learn, be it the languages or about mazes. His love for flowers does not diminish but it helps him grow in other directions. He is not lacking in his ambition as it is initially thought. The mazes he builds becomes symbolic. It is the maze that his life has become. He is a good loving person. Still he has been twice divorced.

The party he throws in the end shows him what he truly desires but still he has a long way to go to come out of the maze called life, to find the peace within himself. Vignettes of Larry's life becomes our own vignettes, his slices of life are what we undergo at each moment. And that is what holds it..along with the mazes....the metaphor for life. I am not saying everyone is going to love this book, but it is one worth giving a try. Carol Shields is one author to read, if only at least once. Next on my list is The Stone Diaries.