That Thing That Happened by Libby Broadbent
I’m always excited to discover a talented Canadian author. Nova Scotia writer Libby Broadbent’s debut novel, That Thing That Happened, was a pleasure to read from beginning to end.
The story centers on Cosy, a divorced small-town high-school teacher, and Tarl, a troubled student in her class. Cosy is smart and resilient but insecure, a likeable character who is easy for many of us to relate to. She loves her job, her friends and her boyfriend Parker, but her bi-polar mother is a thorn in her side. Tarl is seething with rage and spinning out of control. Neglected by his alcoholic mother, he has only his tender-hearted girlfriend, Meg, standing by him. Tarl’s inner world is both disturbing and compelling.
One rainy evening these characters’ lives crash together in an unexpected tragedy. I don’t want to give away the “thing that happened” but suffice it to say the event is shocking and vivid, and the aftermath gripping. The effects ripple out to the peripheral characters in a variety of ways.
While this is not a romance novel, the love story between Cosy and Parker is the most powerful I’ve read in a while. All of the core characters are unique and fully dimensioned, so that even those you expect to hate end up inspiring sympathy. Broadbent has a flair for describing a scene or an emotion in a way that is simply perfect. I found myself going back to read a line or paragraph two or three times simply because it was so beautifully crafted. She captures the nuances of grief so poignantly that it nearly brought me to tears once or twice.
Funny one minute and heart wrenching the next, That Thing That Happened is an engrossing and highly satisfying read.
Susan R. Hughes