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'Remembering the Bones'


In the opening pages of a new novel from Canadian writer Frances Itani, an old woman sets out for a drive to the airport. Georgina Danforth Whitley has been invited to be one of 99 guests at Queen Elizabeth's birthday in London. Ninety-nine subjects of the Commonwealth who share the queen's birthday. Itani's novel is titled "Remembering the Bones."

Alan Cheuse tells us what happens next.

ALAN CHEUSE: Distracted as she speeds away from her house, 80-year-old Georgina Whitley loses control of her car and plunges into a ravine. She's thrown from the vehicle and like a character in one of the Beckett stage plays her daughter produces, spends the rest of the story crawling a few inches a day back towards the wreck. As she grows dehydrated, chilled and feeble, Georgina keeps herself alert by casting her mind back to scenes from her long life. She recalls prayers, recites poems, family homilies and revisits the suffering of her grandmother after her grandfather's death. She also visits her own misery after the loss of a boy child in infancy, romance with her husband to be in sickness and upheavals in small-town Canada, a setting that could be hometown for most any of us.

Itani recounts these quiet dramas in a deceptively simple often lyrical manner that might be compared to the music of Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt, one of Georgina's favorite musicians. All mellow and scrambly is how the old woman describes Rinehart's style as she fights for her life in the cold ravine. He made it sound easy, she thinks, he made it sound blessed. Most readers will find that Frances Itani's admirable novel has a similar effect.

BLOCK: The novel is "Remembering the Bones" by Frances Itani. Alan Cheuse teaches writing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Alan Cheuse died on July 31, 2015. He had been in a car accident in California earlier in the month. He was 75. Listen to NPR Special Correspondent Susan Stamburg's retrospective on his life and career.

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