So after being in book club for 10 months my turn came around to choose our next book. Now some might find this task easy, but I struggled with indecision for about three months before, constantly wavering between a number of different books. In the end, the night before I had to announce the book, I chose Our Daily Bread by Lauren B. Davis – and boy am I ever glad I did! I found this novel while perusing the 2012 Giller Prize Long List and thought it sounded interesting: it turned out to be one of the best books I had ever read. So off to book club I went with Our Daily Bread in hand.
For those that have not read it, Our Daily Bread is a gritty and sometimes depressing novel that deals with such issues as poverty, isolation, incest, child abuse, drug use, division within society and communities, and how we treat our neighbours. It was inspired by the true life story of the Goler Clan in Nova Scotia and follows Albert Erskine, a young member of the Erskine Mountain Clan, in his struggle to change the future for him and his young siblings.
So you are probably wondering how such a seemingly depressing story could rate so highly on my list of favorite books. Well, I wasn’t alone. This book had one of the highest overall ratings by all the lovely ladies of the Unputdownable Book Club in the club’s history. The average rating for this book lay between a 4.5 and 4.75 – with a low rating of 4 and a high of 5 (by me!).
We all found this novel to be truly unputdownable. We were drawn in from the first chapter and the last few chapters made it impossible to put down. In fact, many of us stayed up late unable to not finish it and I, embarrassingly enough, snapped at my husband when he was talking to me telling him to wait until I was done (Sorry!). That takes quite an intense interest to elicit those outcomes.
We all found that the characters were well developed and believable, our favorites being Tom and Ivy. Both were beautifully portrayed and somewhat tragic. We felt connected to the characters and cared about the outcome of their struggles. There are many authors whose attempts to write novels from multiple viewpoints, by varying characters, fail – resulting in characters that seem very similar. Lauren Davis had no trouble differentiating between viewpoints and writing each in a way that believable for the character who was narrating.
When it came to the main character, Albert, our opinions differed. Some of us felt for him, and sympathized with his struggle to overcome his upbringing and become a better person. Others, however, worried for Bobby and felt Albert was a bad influence. This left them with little concern for his well-being. In the end we did agree he was an integral part of the story and a complex character.
The only critique that came from our discussion, and we were digging deep for this one, was that we felt that Dorothy came across as a little stereotypical, which sometimes left the sections of the novel written from her point of view to seem less believable than the rest.
In the end, our overall opinion of Our Daily Bread was that Lauren Davis did excellent job with a topic most people would be scared to write about. Lauren dealt with a sensitive subject without being graphic; creating a powerful story through insinuation and inference. To top it off, Lauren was the most approachable author we have read to date, even responding to our questions via Twitter during our meeting!