Hidden Life

Patty Osborne

Ever since I read Double Duty: Sketches and Diaries of Molly Lamb Bobak, Canadian War Artist way back in 1992, I’ve been a fan, so when I heard an interview with Bobak’s daughter about a book that was “an homage” to her mother, I couldn’t wait to read it. Last Dance in Shediac by Anny Scoones (TouchWood) is more mysterious than I expected. The story rambles around and spends most of its time describing the Atlantic (Bobak lived in Fredericton), Vancouver Island (where Scoones lives), the pets in both locations, the airports in between and Scoones’s farm outside Victoria. The things that Scoones and her mother had in common were their love of animals, vermouth, road trips and hilarity, but this is all on the surface: we learn little about Bobak other than what we can glean from described interactions between Bobak and her (apparently) grouchy husband, the artist Bruno Bobak. Scoones seems to have spent much of her childhood alone—she writes that she built “comforting walls” around her emotions and that for her parents to be fulfilled as artists they had to be “more than just paternal or maternal”—but this is as reflective as the writing gets. Near the end of the book, Scoones describes leaving home as soon as she could after high school and surmises that “It must have been strange for them to see their second child leaving home.” “What!?” I said out loud. “There was another child in that family? And this is the first time he or she gets a mention?” I rushed off to Google, where I discovered that Scoones has a brother living in Fredericton, not a large enough city for me to believe that he never ran into his sister. It’s obvious that this family has a lot more going on below the surface than Scoones is prepared to reveal, but rather than disappointing me, it made me read and reread the book more closely, as I savoured whatever tiny glimpses I could get of anything that would help fill in the picture of Molly Lamb Bobak’s inner life.

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