Review: THE MIRAMICHI READER (Stella’s Carpet)
At its core, Stella’s Carpet is a story about a dysfunctional family. Shedding light on complex mother-daughter bonds and deftly exploring themes of loss and grief, it oscillates from the dullness of typical suburban families all the way to outright melodrama and chaos. But what makes it unique is Lucy Black’s treatment of post-war trauma, or rather, its impact and manifestation over three generations.
Black begins exploring post-traumatic stress disorder through Stan and Maria: two Holocaust survivors still haunted by the atrocities of WWII. Stan, in particular, is plagued by constant paranoia, demonstrated in the very structure of his house, which is “dark, fortress-like…with wrought-iron bars on the basement windows.” Even the couples’ daughter, Pam, grows up under the shadow of the Holocaust. Her parents’ preoccupation with the past invalidates her own struggles and emotions, giving rise to frustration and an inevitable sense of alienation that she’s unable to shake off even as an adult.
“Much like its title, Stella’s Carpet is an intricately woven narrative of multiple characters: each thread telling a uniquely different story.”
But no one is more pitiful to watch than the title character herself: Stella. Bearing the brunt of her mother’s resentment, Stella develops what is commonly known as a trauma response: “If she did things perfectly…then maybe she can escape once again to her room.” Through Stella, Black reveals the very nature of trauma and its pivotal role in people’s lives. While she is no war-ravaged victim like her grandparents, Stella is a victim regardless–a victim of intergenerational trauma.
While the novel expertly deals with heavy themes and addresses important issues such as mental health awareness, it was not always a pleasurable read. The chapters, although short, seemed like haphazard snippets of strangers’ lives–it followed no chronological order, offered no backstory (at least, not right away), and I often found myself asking, “Who is this again?”
Confusing as it was initially, it all falls into place like pieces of a puzzle. Much like its title, Stella’s Carpet is an intricately woven narrative of multiple characters: each thread telling a uniquely different story. While the exploration of war-induced PTSD in fiction is nothing new, Black stands out by constructing a richly textured story with utmost care and thoughtfulness, quite like the weavers of exotic Persian rugs centuries ago. Take your time with it and all the patterns will start to make sense.
About the Reviewer
Noor Ferdous is an avid reader, with an MA in English Literature from Queen’s University. Based out of Toronto, ON, she currently works in client relations and engagement. Noor loves reading works of the 19th century, historical fiction, and memoirs. Known for her love of nature, you can find her exploring different trails with a book in hand.