Author: Racine Hiet
Publisher: Second Symphony
Don’t be put off by some of the uneven storytelling in Racine’s Hiet’s richly textured debut novel Stanley Park which is set in Vancouver, Canada where she lives. With some patience you will be well rewarded with plenty of spellbinding plot twists and vibrant characters.
Hiet’s powerful and vivid prose masterfully sketches her characters’ complex backgrounds and their emotionally involved experiences as a result of the fallout from parental abandonment, abuse, murder and other causes. She skillfully weaves together a compelling yarn depicting chaotic emotions, human resilience featuring a collection of several characters whose lives become intertwined through a series of daunting events.
The parade of actors contributing to the novel’s yarn include Augustine (Ace) Andrews whose father is Steggart Andrews and whose mother died when he was eleven. Ace was physically and psychologically abused by Steggart who would constantly taunt him and tell him he was “nothing and nobody.” As we discover, this does not prevent Ace from getting what he wanted out of life no matter what were the consequences.
Then we have April Fallows whom Ace refers to as “Girlie.” April is the daughter of Rita Fallows who gave her up for adoption and whose father is unknown. Incidentally, Rita serviced Steggart’s voracious sexual appetite and was instrumental in introducing Ace to his first sexual encounter. One day, with the help of April, Ace slits his father’s throat and, as he states, he knew that he and April “would be joined together always, now and forever.”
Next, the story switches to Markus Friedman born in Vancouver, Canada in 1937 to Hannah Friedman while his father Joseph was caught in Hitler’s Third Reich. A broken down Joseph eventually immigrates to Canada and together he and Markus operate a hardware store. Unfortunately, Hannah dies and Markus feels that he would never be able to breathe again as his father’s life would be his life.
This is followed by Markus’ fiancée, Goldie Stein, and even though he is engaged to her, this does not divert him from falling in love with April Fallows who now goes under the name of Lily Winters. Both he and Lily are quite attracted to each other and while in Vancouver’s Stanley Park she divulges deep secrets to him including the fact that her mother was murdered and that she spent time in a mental institution.
As the saga develops, readers will be quite blown away as to who is hiding behind Lily Winter’s mask. Was it possible to lock away her past? In the meantime, Lily goes onto to marry Hatter Monroe and has a daughter with him, Alyson. Alyson and Ace eventually cross paths with Markus leading to some very disastrous consequences.
Moving from past to present Hiet crafts moments that engender conflicting and unexpected emotions. She is also quite deft in the way she portrays her characters’ thinking, uncovering some astonishing surprises pertaining to painful incidents.
In the end, as a piece of creative writing, Stanley Park is quite impressive. As far as chapter organization and the transitions from one character’s story to the next is concerned, it is less impressive and needs more work. Nonetheless, Hiet shows great promise and I look forward to hearing from her in the future.
Follow Here To Read Norm’s Interview With Racine Hiet