Lavoie’s coming-of-age story is both poignant and personal
Marie-Renée Lavoie is the Quebec author of an entertaining novel titled Autopsy of a Boring Wife (2019) and its equally uplifting sequel, A Boring Wife Settles the Score (2021). In these, Lavoie showed a knack for combining heartbreak and hilarity, as main protagonist Diane Delaunais bounces back from her breakup to become a pretty, independent woman with newfound confidence at the age of 50.
Lavoie’s latest offering, Some Maintenance Required, naturally transitions from comedy to heartache, but isn’t quite as satisfying as its predecessors.
The novel is set in Quebec City in 1993 and is told in first person by 18-year-old Laurie Gagnon. Laurie is finishing high school while wanting to take a job as a waitress that will keep her busy until she goes to college.
Laurie is close to her mother Suzanne, so sympathetic that she almost stole the novel from her daughter. Suzanne works in a small cubicle as a hospital parking attendant. “When the window was closed, it was a completely soundproof wooden cube that existed beyond the laws of time and the outside world,” writes Lavoie.
“It would be a mistake,” says Laurie, “to think that just because she was cooped up all year round in her cozy little nest, my mother never went anywhere. She read novels, loads of novels… enough novels to [enable her to] talk shamelessly about travel with anyone, convinced that her literary experiences could be on par with those of true globetrotters.
Laurie and her mom are such good pals that it’s not uncommon for Laurie to take the stand while Suzanne takes a pee break.
“The taxi honked.
“‘I can’t, but you want to spend your five minutes where it’s hot?’
” ‘No thank you. I may never want to go out…'”
There are many exchanges like this. In fact, a reader might decide that this novel is a nice diversion – who cares if it doesn’t lead to some real conclusions? (Often we wish there was more clarity about who is speaking.)
Sometimes it seems like Laurie’s language is too precocious. Would an 18-year-old use words like minimum, aplomb, questionable, amplify banality and loathing? (In the text, loath is spelled loathe, which has a completely different meaning than that intended.) This may be a consequence of the translation, made for this book by Arielle Aaronson, who also translated the work of The way. boring woman novels. It could also explain why Laurie and her friends never say “like”, which has become the most common word in the vocabulary of many young English speakers.
Dave Williamson is the Winnipeg-based author of a novel called Dating.