So Much Love, the debut novel from Toronto-based writer Rebecca Rosenblum, is more like a series of thoughtful essays than a collection of chapters. Each of these essays orbits around the common theme of love: its presence, its absence, how it builds, and how it destroys.
The plot of So Much Love traces the ripples of a shocking event in the small university town of Iria, Ontario: the disappearance of university student Catherine Reindeer and, one month before, the same of highschooler Donny Zimmerman. If you’re a fan of thrillers, don’t get too excited. Unlike most kidnapped heroines, Catherine doesn’t screw around. In a refreshing subversion of expectations, she takes the tools and opportunity given to her to make her escape.
But the book isn’t about kidnapping, it’s about love.
Love for Catherine and Donny in the various forms it takes are the central hubs of each chapter. From Catherine’s Canadian poetry professor, to Donny’s bereft girlfriend, to one of Catherine’s co-workers mulling over whether to visit her in the hospital, to the dangerous effects it had on Julianna Ohlin, a poet Catherine admires. Love strikes through the hearts of every character and, through their meditations on it, through us.
So Much Love is the sort of book you pause in the middle of to appreciate the people around you, your surroundings, your comfortable bed and big, bright windows, the way your loved ones hug you gently and hold your hand. On a sinister note, the book makes you appreciate the social contract where we’ve all agreed not to kidnap or kill each other because that’s kind of a rude thing to do.
“One moment of violence is not what matters, yet it is the shadow that’s cast back over the poems… That’s crazy, but once you’ve been through the worst things, it colours every memory.”
—Rebecca Rosenblum, So Much Love
Just shy of three hundred pages, So Much Love feels a lot heavier in the mind and heart than in the hands. This is not only because so many chapters are dedicated to loss, absence, and sadness, but because these concepts are things that must be dealt with internally, cognitively, and emotionally. It makes for almost soupy prose that is thick to parse. That isn’t to say that the story doesn’t move along. It does, but often the story isn’t what is happening like buses stopping and starting and people walking down the sidewalk, but the story is what turns over in the characters’ hearts: a single significant moment in a failing marriage, a gift that doesn’t make anything better, one breath among many thousands that suddenly becomes the last.
The book is an astounding first novel from Rosenblum. Not many authors can manage such thoughtful prose in the beginnings of their careers, but Rosenblum handles heavy subjects with a familiarity that speaks of a wise old soul. Her efforts to bring those quiet voices of women kidnapped to the forefront, to spotlight their gentle strength, and force us all to lean in and listen to their stories, are undertaken with care and deference. She keeps our gaze where it matters. Instead of delving into the psyches of the men who cause pain, Rosenblum shows us the pain.
Thoughtful and thought-provoking, Rosenblum’s novel explores love in the many incarnations it takes, even the perilous ones.