Mavis and Merna
by Ian Wallace
Groundwood/Douglas and McIntyre, 2005.
"At the top of his game, Ian Wallace is peerless, and his newest book a lovely amalgam of radiant watercolours and a story that floats above its own earthy humour and poignancy offers ample evidence of his capacity to enchant.
"Mavis and Merna are an inquisitive child and a new widow, respectively, as this story begins. Mavis has always loved the shop that Merna and her husband, Joe Gully, ran in Fortune's Cove. Gully's 'sold everything a family could ever need. Bicycles and birdbaths. Church hats and long johns. Cream of Wheat and canoes. Hammers and licorice whips. Mavis loved the smell of wicker and wool, rubber and oil, perfume and leather all mixed up together.'
"But one Halloween night, Joe Gully dies. According to Mr. Quirk, neighbour and Fortune's Cove's postman, 'His heart stopped and he dropped like a rock while making his nightly deposit at the bank.' When Mavis says that Mrs. Gully must be sad, her mother replies, 'Joe's money will help her feel better. Merna will be the merriest widow of them all.'
"Joe Gully is laid out in the central aisle of Gully's, 'between the boots and brassieres for three days.' Mavis's dad remarks that Joe's coffin looked like a solid gold Cadillac: 'Joe Gully will look like Elvis Presley riding up to the Pearly Gates in that shiny honker.'
"Her mother replies that Joe would have preferred to have been buried in a cardboard box. 'I'll bet store prices will really fall now with Merna in charge,' she adds for good measure.
"But Gully's doesn't reopen after the funeral. Mavis imagines that Mrs. Gully must be very sad, sitting all alone in her house counting the millions she is reputed to have. Late one night, Mavis climbs the tree outside the Gully house and sees Merna playing Solitaire not counting her gold in her turret room. The tree branch snaps under Mavis's weight and she crash-lands on the roof of the house and into Merna Gully's life.
"What follows is the story of a decades-long friendship of uncommon depth between two of a small village's temperamentally marginalized characters, recounted with not a whit of sentimentality, and with those incandescent double-page Wallace paintings saying all that words cannot." The Globe and Mail
"An old fashioned flavour permeates this unique story ..."
School Library Journal
"... a great addition to a school or library."
"... many children will enjoy the portrayal of spirited, unsentimental friendship across generations."
"a testament to the healing power of friendship."
Quill & Quire
Copyright © Ian Wallace