August 20, 2013 by Vicki
Lisa Moore’s February examines grief from the very personal perspective of her main character Helen O’Mara. Helen’s husband, Cal, dies when the oil rig Ocean Ranger sank. He left her with two children and another one on the way. She did not have time to grieve. She had to raise her children and live her life for their sake. February tells how Helen lived her life while continuing grieving the loss of her husband.
Grief and memory react strangely to each other. In February, Helen discusses her memories of her grief. She creates a memory of Cal’s death from memorizing the official reports and the tales of those who had been on the rescue mission. Helen feels that she should have been with Cal when he died and because she was not there she needs to create this memory and perfect it. She does not remember calling her sister when she heard the news. She also does not remember where her children were. She only remembers that she knew he was dead as soon as she heard the rig had sunk.
I could not help but empathize with Helen because the novel weaves her memories of the past with the realities of Helen’s present. The love between Cal and Helen lived on despite his death until she was ready to let go. The reader has the sense that Cal is still with Helen as she makes a new life for herself and her children. Helen says that she listens for him and his footsteps on the stairs or his answers to her questions. Anyone who has lost someone knows the feeling of waiting for someone you know will never arrive and feeling the presence of the lost loved one as you grieve. February explores these relations between grief and memory through the story of Helen O’Mara.
I cannot decide if I like Helen O’Mara. I empathized with her and suffered with her through her grief. I could not help feeling, however, that she missed out on so much life while she tried to recreate a death. She had three children whose childhood she can barely recall. All of her memories of Cal had him celebrating his children and teaching them. It felt wrong to me that she let the rest of their childhood’s slip through her fingers with barely a memory. She also had a sister who stood with her through thick and thin who she never really seemed to appreciate. I suppose it is part of being human that we idolize those who we have lost to the detriment to those who remain but I found Helen took this tendency to an extreme.
I recommend reading Lisa Moore’s February as an excellent story told with astounding skill. I do caution my readers, however, that it is a depressing story despite its happy ending. I thank the reader who requested this review as I had never heard of this novel and am glad to have read it. Please remember to post your requests on the Book Request page of this blog. The only requirements are that the novel be written by women, for women, and about women or at least, two out of three. I hope you enjoy this review but remember this is only my perspective. What was your experience of reading February? Did you enjoy it? Did you find Helen to be a sympathetic character? The other reviews I have read of the novel seemed to be split on whether she was a sympathetic character or if she complained too much to be sympathetic. Feel free to describe your experience in the comment section below.