Plot: Cavanagh tells the painful story of a complicated mother struggling with addiction and to repair almost irreparable relationships.
Prose/Style: The prose is straightforward, immediate, and easy to follow.
Originality: While stories of recovery from addiction are familiar, these particular actions of a distraught, stressed, strung-out daughter come across as honest, fresh, and effective.
Character Development/Execution: The characters are quite well drawn and nuanced in their development. Cavanagh portrays the circumstances in a manner that is impactful and unsentimental.
Date Submitted: August 20, 2021
Recommended. Top Ten Self-Published Book of the Year.
Who can forgive a mother who poisons her eight-year-old son? Even if it was an accident.
Tasha's mother was dying of cancer. Her job as a nurse was demanding. And her relationship with her husband wasn't at its best. But Tasha thought she was coping. She wasn't. And her growing dependence on painkillers turned into disaster, when her young son Jake got into her stash, and almost died. Weekend Pass covers Tasha's first weekend visit home from her rehabilitation facility. Her husband, Baker, has understandably banned her from coming home and a court order dictates that she can only see Jake during a supervised visit at a family centre. Will she cope outside in the world again? Can she ever repair her relationship with her son?
Told from four points of view - Tasha's, her father's, her aunt's, her husband's - in short sharp chapters, this deeply humane novel unpicks a web of secrets and family dysfunction, all standing in the way of redemption: for everyone, not just Tasha. It covers addiction, infidelity, parenting, sibling rivalry and much more along the way. It's a truly absorbing read as you pick your way through the thoughts and emotions of each of the characters and the past's effect on the present is gradually revealed.
I felt for Tasha. Her husband can't forgive her for what she did but her real pain lies in her inability to forgive herself. The well-meaning interventions of her father and aunt can't help her do this, particularly since they have sins of their own to answer for and reflect upon. Nobody comes out of this book as any kind of shining light but its strength is that it shows us that nobody is really the villain either. There is no cardboard cut-out baddie to blame. Tasha, Baker, Milt, Charlotte - they're all human; a mix of all their thoughts and deeds, whether virtuous or sinning.
Can we atone for the worst of our mistakes? Of course we can. Can we regain the trust others have lost in us? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. But there is always honour and humanity in the effort.
Weekend Pass packs a lot into fewer than two hundred pages. The dialogue never stutters. The writing is tight and clean and elegant with hidden depths that give pause for reflection and thought. It covers important, difficult themes in a compassionate, humanist way. It was an absolute pleasure to read.
By Joe Belanger
Addiction is a scourge that knows no boundaries, from the people it afflicts to the places it’s found.
So it wasn’t a tough call for London author Paul Cavanagh to set his newest novel called Weekend Pass here. In fact, London is the setting for all three of the award-winning author’s novels.
“Why not London?” Cavanagh, 58, responded without missing a beat.
“This is where I live and I realized after my first two books, people get a kick reading a book set in their own city. Anywhere you live is worthy of being the setting for a piece of literature. Besides, these are stories that happen everywhere. I won an international book competition with a story that was set in London, Ont.”
In 2004, Cavanagh’s debut novel After Helen won the U.K.’s inaugural International Lit Idol competition at the London, England, book fair.
That story, about a family in crisis after the death of a man’s “larger-than-life” wife, led to a book deal with HarperCollins Canada.
He then self-published Missing Steps, the story of a family in crisis over dementia, in 2015, followed this year by Weekend Pass, published by Cavanagh’s own imprint, Not That London.
And, again, Weekend Pass is about a family in crisis, this time about an opioid-addicted nurse, Tasha, whose young son nearly dies when he finds and consumes her stash, leaving him comatose in hospital and her in an addiction treatment centre.
The story focuses on Tasha’s first visit home and the impact of her addiction on those around her. It’s told from the perspectives of four people, including Tasha.
“Everyone has secrets in the story,” said Cavanagh, an occupational therapist by trade who has taught at Western University and is now a freelance health writer. He has worked in group counselling with families, which has given him insight into the far-reaching impact of health issues, such as addiction or dementia.
“Telling the story from each character’s point of view means we’re able to get inside their heads, access their memories, and in that way their secrets are revealed to us even if they’re not revealed to other characters in the story,” he said.
“It gives us a deeper appreciation for why these characters are behaving the way they are.”
Cavanagh will talk about Weekend Pass in an online discussion Wednesday hosted on the Addiction Services of Thames Valley Foundation’s Possible platform. A panel of people experienced with addiction will unpack themes raised by the book. There’s a link on Cavanagh’s website, notthatlondon.com, to view the talk that begins at 7 p.m.