I’m writing this while the cat tries to dislodge the only Christmas tree ornament from the potted plant that serves as a Christmas tree. I moved the plant so she couldn’t see the ornament, but she continues to yell at the base of the plant and stand on her back legs trying to reach the ornament that isn’t there anymore.
Much of reading Minus Time feels like being the cat: grappling toward something that might be there, that for paragraphs is there, but then is gone. The reader yells at the text wondering where the missing glittering gem of character motivation remains. Why does Helen not want her mother to be an astronaut? Why does she not want to be in the media? Why does she want to be an animal rights activist?
The characters act without motivation, but their actions are clear and engaging. In addition to an engaging plot, the novel does well with setting: no surprise that it won the Toronto City Book Award, the city descriptions are wonderful and the appearance of ravines will no doubt aid a doctoral dissertation down the road.
If it came to a knife fight between plot and character which side would you take?