When I Was Young And In My Prime

Alayna Munce vividly captures a family struggling with the decline of its elders in this powerful novel. The primary narrator is a nameless young woman succumbing to depression as her grandparents’ bodies betray them, slowly stealing them from the world. In fleeting glimpses, Munce dips into the psyche of each grandparent, of a friend, and of the auctioneer who sold off the belongings of their house. Not only does the narrator frequently change, but so does the time period, each character dealing with inescapable memories while trying to make sense of the present. Despite the frequent changes in voice, I never felt lost. The result is something very lifelike-complex and potentially confusing but also beautifully tragic. Munce masterfully switches between prose and poetry as she layers detail and emotion. Characters struggle with their physicality, loneliness, and the unfairness of a society in which we must pay other people to take care of those we love. Munce depicts the tension between our individual isolation and our simultaneous sense of inseparability from the world. This novel demonstrates that being actively engaged and invested in a constantly changing world is worth the pain that necessarily follows the inevitable loss of possessions, abilities and loved ones. As the granddaughter says to herself during a walk through Toronto’s High Park one beautiful day, “There is nothing that is not exotic. We all, all of us, are just visiting.” (Nancy Duncan)

by Alayna Munce, $18.95, 249 pgs, Nightwood Editions, 4437 Rondeview Rd. Madeira Park, BC, V0N 2H0, nightwoodeditions.com

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