Aphrodite, Pandora and Sheherazad are three white-collar workers in downtown Edmonton, evoking their namesakes as they share stories of their lives during their coffee breaks in the food court of Commerce Place. From April 1999 to January 2000, their talk ranges from the external (the implementation of new smoking bylaws; Y2K worries) to the personal (fear of getting old; Pandora's daughter's pregnancy). Their tale unfolds in a series of narrative verse.
Alice Major plays confidently with words. Her poems are rich with assonance, half-rhyme and alliteration, as in this example (when the women join the summertime crowds outdoors in small green spaces):
"Vegetation has toughened up.
The park's square of grass has matted
to a rough, tufted tan,
hunkered beneath the hustling, rapid
repeat of feet."
Lovely imagery is found in the commonplace: "Aphrodite / takes up her cup again, holds it to her chest / like a portable heart."
My heart was especially won over by Sheherazad - Sherry - the storyteller. She transports and amuses her friends while adding an expansive element to the book. It ends with a hopeful tone, as the women gather with gifts for Pandora's granddaughter.
Find out more about this award-winning book at Alice Major's website.