Penny Loves Wade; Wade Loves Penny, by Caroline Woodward is a big adventure and a lively story: one of increasingly few these days in which things actually happen. Plot is important to this book, and during the reading of it, I found myself, while busy with other tasks, yearning back to it, wondering about the next fate of Penny and Wade, the protagonists.
This book is highly regional; the Peace Country of Northern B.C. is described beautifully. There was great pleasure for me, in recognizing the highways on which Wade travels with his rig and sharing Penny's joy in canning peaches as well as her challenges, dealing with Evers, the creepy neighbour and a car that won't start. Even more important though, are the earnest attitudes of the characters. Penny's description of singing in the community choir: identifying her own species likeness to the “hub-bub. . .and mixed vocal tones” of the chicken coop and her surge of tears in the release of group singing is achingly honest and beautiful. Wade brings us with him as he passes in and out of consciousness while living on the road and being drugged, beaten, seduced and worse. We follow his ecstasies and horrors as innocent victims, subject to all his experience first-hand and sharing his inmost thoughts and reflections. Both of these folks try so hard to do the right thing and they question their own actions in a way which I found touching as well as uniquely Canadian.
Penny Loves Wade; Wade Loves Penny is a love story as experienced by separate individuals. Their devotion to each other is obvious, even as the characters themselves question it. Caroline Woodward has shared with us her sense of small-town, northern life and she has transmitted it with such delicacy and good humour, the effect is disarming.