Lisa Moore’s Giller-nominated novel February languished on my bookshelf for over a year before I could bring myself to open it. Much as I wanted to read this acclaimed author, I was afraid the subject matter would upset or depress me. The book is a fictionalized account of the real-life events surrounding the sinking of the oil rig Ocean Ranger off the coast of Newfoundland in 1982. Moore assumes the first-person voice of Helen O’Mara, fictional widowed wife of one of the eighty-four workers who lost their lives when the rig sank during a storm on Valentine’s night, February 14, 1982.
With three young children and another on the way, O’Mara’s life was forever and irretrievably altered. Faced with financial hardship and soul-crushing loneliness without her husband, lover and partner, she stitches her life together as best she can to raise the children alone while working at low-paying jobs. Over time, each child presents its own set of challenges growing up and O’Mara copes with an inner strength and sense of humour characteristic of Newfoundlanders.
Now that I’ve finished February, I can say that I’m really glad I read it. While it was sad in many places, it was also uplifting and encouraging. Moore’s writing is joyful to read, ripe with Newfoundland idiom and an intelligent take on modern life. Without giving away the storyline and in order to encourage you to read it, I will say that it has a happy ending. And I’m going to read more by Lisa Moore.