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Waiting for Joe
Cover of Waiting for Joe
Waiting for Joe
After you've lost it all — job, house, savings, future —what have you got left? A piercing new novel of our times by one of Canada's finest fiction writers.
On a chilly early morning in late spring, Joe Beaudry and his wife, Laurie, wake up in circumstances that would challenge saints: they are on the lam in a stolen motorhome on the edge of a Walmart parking lot in Regina, Saskatchewan. They've gone bust, spectacularly: lost the house that was Joe's gift from his dad, lost the business Joe started when he got married, and stuck his ancient father in a nursing home in Winnipeg so they could flee their creditors. Joe knows the reality of the situation, and is trying to raise enough cash to get them both to Fort McMurray where he hopes he can find work. But Laurie, even though she watched Joe trash their high-end appliances with a sledgehammer when the yard sale didn't deliver enough cash, somehow thinks it's only temporary, and maxes out their last credit card on wardrobe and hair dye and wishes and dreams. For Joe, it's the last straw in a marriage that once seemed star-crossed and now seems simply unworkable.
Pushed to figure out what to do next, Joe simply takes off hitchhiking, leaving Laurie waiting for Joe, and Joe wondering how he will ever find meaning in a world that has disappointed his every expectation. The road for both of them provides surprising answers...
From the Hardcover edition.
After you've lost it all — job, house, savings, future —what have you got left? A piercing new novel of our times by one of Canada's finest fiction writers.
On a chilly early morning in late spring, Joe Beaudry and his wife, Laurie, wake up in circumstances that would challenge saints: they are on the lam in a stolen motorhome on the edge of a Walmart parking lot in Regina, Saskatchewan. They've gone bust, spectacularly: lost the house that was Joe's gift from his dad, lost the business Joe started when he got married, and stuck his ancient father in a nursing home in Winnipeg so they could flee their creditors. Joe knows the reality of the situation, and is trying to raise enough cash to get them both to Fort McMurray where he hopes he can find work. But Laurie, even though she watched Joe trash their high-end appliances with a sledgehammer when the yard sale didn't deliver enough cash, somehow thinks it's only temporary, and maxes out their last credit card on wardrobe and hair dye and wishes and dreams. For Joe, it's the last straw in a marriage that once seemed star-crossed and now seems simply unworkable.
Pushed to figure out what to do next, Joe simply takes off hitchhiking, leaving Laurie waiting for Joe, and Joe wondering how he will ever find meaning in a world that has disappointed his every expectation. The road for both of them provides surprising answers...
From the Hardcover edition.
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Excerpts-
  • Chapter One One


    It is early morning when Joe Beaudry awakens to a droning sound, the ceiling fan, he thinks. His father has left it going again in his room at the back of the house. But when Joe opens his eyes, the greenish light is seeping in around the edges of the blind and he remembers that he and Laurie are parked on the Walmart lot in Regina. The cold is like a hovering presence above the bed, alert and waiting for his next move.

    "What time is it?" Laurie asks, and she feels the sudden tension in Joe, his surprise that she's awake too. She sees his arm rise and the glow at his wrist lights the bottom of his stubbly face.

    "You don't want to know." It's near to three o'clock, Joe doesn't say. When he came to bed around midnight unsettled by the red wine they'd drunk with supper, Laurie was already asleep. She lay completely still, hands folded and tucked under her chin, the rise and fall of her breathing barely perceptible. He'd often been jealous of that stillness, of whatever took her away. Soon after, he'd heard the clatter and dull rolling sounds of the skateboarders at the far end of the lot, and then the sweeper making its nightly pass of the shopping centre parking lot, beginning at Safeway and working its way toward them. He must have slept though, because the droning had awakened him, maybe a turboprop warming up at the airport.

    He sits on the side of the bed for a moment thinking of Pauline. By now she'll know he's left. He didn't call to say goodbye. He didn't want to suggest there was more to them other than that she was sometimes lonely and he was in no hurry to go home. They found themselves agreeing to meet for a drink, to talk, Joe doing most of the talking once it became apparent that his RV business, the Happy Traveler, was failing. He turns to flip the blanket over Laurie to double its warmth, regretting their haste to leave Winnipeg, their lack of foresight in not thinking to look in the drawer under the bed to make sure there was adequate bedding, their not having hung on to the sleeping bags.

    When Joe gets up and crosses the room Laurie smells the garlic—the pizza they had for supper. She fights the ache in her chest while she watches Joe in the closet mirrors, the glowing rectangle of the window lighting up the space around him, his buttocks tinged green as he bends to collect his clothes. How quickly he pulls on his jeans, T-shirt and hoodie. He leaves her without speaking.

    Like Joe, she'd heard the sweeping crew, their shovels scraping up the debris the machine left behind. The noise receded when the work crew and machine went round the back of Walmart. She'd slept again, only to be awakened now by the muffled drone. The Meridian was supposed to be well insulated against the elements and noise, but it's damp and chilly, and she hears what could be an airplane. Or it might be the city, two hundred thousand people breathing. Then comes the electric whirr of the Meridian steps unfolding, Joe opening the door, the woof of air compressing as it closes behind him.

    She listens for his footsteps and hears none. She heaps his pillow onto her head to shut out the light, tells herself, Laurie, do not think. Do not think about Joe turning away from her yet again. She puts the thought in a jar, screws the lid down tight and imagines setting it on a shelf up near the ceiling.

    Don't think about the house, its vibrant rooms like a jewel box, the colours of mustard and the Mediterranean; the geranium-red kitchen only just renovated, the warm sheen of its cork floor. That about now she would be washing the winter dust from the upstairs veranda, preparing it for the summer months when they liked to...
About the Author-
  • SANDRA BIRDSELL, among Canada's finest fiction writers, was born in Manitoba, and lived for many years in Winnipeg. Her novel The Russländer was nominated for the Giller Prize, and her bestselling novel Children of the Day was longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and won the Saskatchewan Book Award for Fiction. She is also the author of three collections of short stories. She lives in Regina.
Reviews-
  • Winnipeg Free Press "Waiting for Joe stirs us to wonder who is waiting for us to change, move on or come home to a spiritual rest. Though close to the world of Flannery O'Connor, it is in its own special universe, the Birdsell landscape of the human heart."
  • Central Plains Herald Leader "Powerful and compassionate."
  • Calgary Herald "Sandra Birdsell explores human beings with intelligence, sensitivity and wit. And there's a wonderful clarity to her stories that fixes them in the mind and makes the imagination return to them."
  • Alice Munro "In fiction what I long for is a sense of the stories being alive -- all hot, rude, contrary, funny, unbearable. You don't get that nearly often enough, but in Sandra Birdsell's work you do get it over and over again, and she has the energy, the faith, the skill, to make her stories overwhelm us."
  • John Barber, The Globe and Mail "The novel is a chilling critique of the heartland values the author knows so well. . . . Waiting for Joe is 100-percent genuine, bone-chilling Canadiana."
  • Edmonton Journal "Deeply moving. . . . Birdsell draws . . . lives with vivid detail, suspense and sensitivity, creating a narrative that forces readers to keep turning the pages to find out how all the characters sort out their individual sense of 'enough.'"
Title Information+
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    Random House of Canada
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