Monday February 08, 2016

Marnie Woodrow on roller-coasters and Timothy Findley's influence

With her novel Heyday, Marnie Woodrow wanted to move beyond the traditional narrative of mourning and examine "complicated loss."

With her novel Heyday, Marnie Woodrow wanted to move beyond the traditional narrative of mourning and examine "complicated loss." (Janette Piquette Photography/Tightrope Books)

Listen 15:33

Marnie Woodrow's new novel, Heyday, mixes romance, roller-coasters and remembrance. The book is actually two stories — one about two girls who meet by chance on a roller-coaster in 1909, and another about a present-day woman who is mourning a wife she is beginning to realize she never truly loved. The stories run parallel to each other, with subtle connections. The author spoke to Shelagh Rogers in Toronto.


Since I went on my first roller-coaster at Canada's Wonderland when I was about 11 years old, they have spoken to me in this profound way. It's this ultimate thrill. There's this deep regret that you feel every time you go up the hill. Even if you love them, you have a moment where you think: What have I done? And it's such a great metaphor to me, for so many things, love especially.


He's been described as my mentor and friend. He was someone I connected to in a very powerful way, but briefly, really, compared to many of his enduring friendships. He gave me not career advice, but soul advice. And that stayed with me and continues to. In terms of writing advice, we would mostly just laugh about being part of this mysterious mob called CanLit. He did not love roller-coasters. There's a scene in the novel that's based on a conversation I had with him where I asked him if he ever went to Sunnyside, which was the amusement park across from the Toronto Islands. And he described this fantastic scene of his father dragging him onto this roller-coaster there, and his deep regret and horror at the whole experience.


I wanted to explore complicated loss. I took a course in bereavement studies, and I came upon "complicated loss," "disenfranchised grief" and all of these interesting terms I'd never heard before. And I thought to myself, that's what I want to explore. Not a traditional mourning story where it was the love of one's life that passed away, but rather a situation that's more like we experience, which is mixed feelings and ambivalence sometimes, and even anger and resentment that we don't know until we're sitting in it and exploring the grief. There was a bit of feedback that people didn't want to read about that, they wanted to read about the love of one's life passing away. That's not my job. It's not my job to write about what I'm told people want, it's for me to explore the things that I think are true.

​​Marnie Woodrow's comments have been edited and condensed.

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