Stepping Out by Lila Hope-Simpson is the ultimate middle-aged Romance. A
fiction novel about Lydia, a 33 year old woman in a loveless marriage in small
town Nova Scotia, tells the story of journey and positive change giving hope.
Lila Hope-Simpson is an Educator, Life Coach, Director of a Day Care, Wife,
Mother and Writer.
Lydia is caught in a loveless marriage, one of rote and expectant routines, a marriage that she does not want to be in and does not know how to reach out to end. It was interesting and a psychological truism that what she loved about her husband at first, his take charge attitude, is what she became disillusioned with, noting that it masked self-centeredness and a “me first” attitude. The truth probably is she was young when she married and had settled, not marrying her starcrossed lover. When people are young they often do not understand themselves well enough to make wise choices. She is quietly desperate in her marriage and one evening she just steps out on her husband who is watching television without saying a word. She goes to the library, where she is the bookmobile driver/librarian and “borrows” the bus which takes her all the way to a truck stop in Fredericton before running out of gas. While traveling through the Maritime countryside, a mother and her son come by and ask if this is the new route for the bookmobile, signing out books. She plays her role of Librarian, assuring them it was, astutely as if everything is perfectly normal. She puts in a phonecall to the Library and tells them where the bookmobile is and that it needs to be picked up. What she has done is technically against the law but may have been the only way she could handle her situation with her husband, a quiet “insanity”.
She heads into the restaurant and peruses the people, she notices a trucker with a Montreal map, he is young, fit and beautiful. She chats him up at the cash register, saying there is something wrong with her bus and he comes to look at it, they begin talking and he winds up giving her a ride to Montreal. In Montreal is great aunt Bessie whom she hasn’t seen in a long while but it is her destination point. The story unfolds in an easy and well written style, it is easy to fall into the gentle reminisces of well told everyday life and romance that is actually very special. Aunt Bessie welcomes Lydia with open arms. Kevin, the truck driver takes a shine to Lydia and calls her after she has been at her Aunt’s place to make certain everything is alright. Lydia is very attracted to Kevin and she finds out he has a son, Tyler, whom he shares custody with his ex-wife. Kevin is very caring and attentive, he gives her a candy bar when she is upset and their romance blossoms in Montreal.
Besides being the quintessential romance it is a book of quirky and unexpected Canadensis humor. “That is when Kevin handed her one of the chocolate bars. Maybe he had read somewhere that women crave chocolate.” “After their meal, which was either a very late lunch or an early dinner, “lupper” they decided . . . “ “She had seen dramatic life and death scenes like this on TV, only the doctors were usually way better looking than Dr. Azim.” And some of the best lines go to Aunt Bessie – “It was an old neighbourhood in the west end of Montreal called N.D.G., which stood for Notre-Dame-de-Grace, but her aunt always called it No Damn Good, with a smirk.” “Don’t worry. If it turns out there was nothing to worry about, you’ll have worried for nothing, and if there is something to worry about, you’ll have plenty of time to worry later.”
The entire time this writer is reminded of the “feminist” revolution of the 1960’s, the wake up call of “The Women’s Room” and other feminist literature that paved the way for the acceptance of divorce and later, happier relations with the opposite sex (although I would not call this book radical or feminist). In a way the lead character, Lydia reminds me of Mary Tyler Moore, the quirky girl/woman writer in the news room, only Lydia has better luck. The beautiful IT girl, but one not in too much trouble who has more understanding about herself and life being middle-aged. She is not afraid to show her vulnerability and perhaps quiet desperation in a very constructed world by first “borrowing” the bookmobile to make her escape and later making a fuss to get off the train in Moncton when she sees Kevin’s truck through the train window at a truck stop. He is sleeping and she beats on the glass with her open hand collapsing in tears in his arms, that they are together and this is what matters. The entire time reading this confection romance I am waiting for the fall from grace, “when does she realize this new guy is just like the old guy?” well she never does, it is seamless, everyone is in syncopated rhythm, there are no cracks in the glass. And just when you think she has fallen irretrievably on her head, everything is arighted, what struck me is she never fell into real financial difficulty although having to shop at a Thrift Store.
It is a story based in strong Community, family and the luck of good karma, on the surface a simple everyday romance but in reality it is the extraordinary in a perfect dance. Near the end her Great Aunt Bessie who was so good to her dies of old age, this is the closest the novel comes to tragedy but the reality is an easy weave. Aunt Bessie comes to Lydia after she has died in thoughts, saying she will bless them from a distance, in my experience it is possible to be in touch with the Spirit World through thoughts. Nothing unexpected happens, everyone is on the same page, Stepping Out is the true magic of the simple life, as fairytale through the power of love.
Available @ Amazon Canada. Amazon.ca.
Available at The Box of Delights in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, and www.lilahopesimpson.com.
Genre: Romance, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Women's Literature