by Linda Rogers
Published by Cormorant Books
411 pages, 2003
Dance for Life
Reviewed by Cherie Thiessen
With a name like Ariel, it's no surprise that the protagonist in Friday Water by Linda Rogers is a dancer. It is perhaps also not a surprise that dancing is something Rogers can write about with passion. "Ballet, as a visual component of music, has always been part of my life," she told me in an interview. "I studied it when I was young. It started as an effort to improve my posture and became a passion. Through my father's friendship with Margot Fonteyn, I was lucky enough to meet many fine dancers. I learned early that the first rate artists are often first rate human beings."
Certainly Friday Water's Ariel is an amazing woman. Throughout the novel, her very survival is in question. She has lost a breast, her hair, vitality and ability to dance. As the novel begins, she has also lost her husband, possibly locked up somewhere in Cuba for making an unauthorized film. Her much older sister, Veronica, has gone to Cuba to find out what's happened to him.
Ariel lives in a magical family home with her husband, Barin, their daughter, Rumer and the aforementioned sister Veronica, an actress. Barin hates the West Coast winters and escapes to the sunshine whenever he has a professional opportunity. It's a little hard on the small family, especially now. Barin left before his wife knew she had cancer and he hasn't been in touch since. He knows no more of the enemy within his wife's body than she does of his enemy without.
And yet the marriage is strong and the reader has no doubt that this couple are soul mates. I wonder, however, if the union would do as well without Veronica. She is the nurse, the cook, the second mother to Rumer, the courier, the buffer between the world and the sanctuary. These two women are so close that it feels as if they are both parts of a whole. Just as our curiosity about the relationship is about to explode, we, along with Ariel, make a discovery.
Rogers packs a lot into a very short period of time; scarcely more than 24 hours. Within the first few pages we learn that Ariel is seriously ill with breast cancer, Rumer has begun to menstruate, a man has been shot in front of the family home and Barin has disappeared in Cuba without a trace.
Of course we want to know if there's a happy ending to this story. Will Barin come home? Will Ariel make it?
Rogers: "Of course, I want Ariel to recover and I want Barin to come home, perhaps enlightened by what he and his family have experienced. I have no reason to think it won't turn out the way we want it to. On the other hand, we never know from one day to the next what life will bring us, and we must prepare for that. Ariel knows this. ... It doesn't matter how things turn out in the sense that we all live our lives from day to day. That is Ariel's point. We are and then we cease to be. The important thing is to be as good as we can be; and the good will survive us. This has been a good day. They are a family and they love one another."
The title refers to the difficulties of getting a reliable water source in Cuba, and the story Veronica tells of her time in Cuba and the anxious awaiting of the water supply, which came on a Friday and meant baths and jubilation.
Rogers reports that both the novel's location and its characters came together for her at the same time. "Friday Water started after we had been at the Festa Iberoamericana in Holguin." Rogers explains. "We fell in love with Cuba. because Cuba is so often perceived in feminine terms, I saw her, her ruin and beauty, as a graceful woman with cancer. We were lucky enough to see a ballet performance at the Gran Teatro de la Habana. It all came together in a subconscious way until these characters emerged, insisting I take dictation. I let them tell the story. They just started talking." | March 2004
Cherie Thiessen has been a scriptwriter, playwright, creative writing instructor and -- for the past 10 years -- a travel writer and book reviewer. She was the review columnist for Focus on Women Magazine for eight years and has also written numerous reviews for magazines including Monday Magazine, Pacific Yachting, Cottage Magazine, The Driftwood News, Linnear Reflections and Douglas College's Event Magazine.