I am a loser, but not a sore one. Dora Dueck and I both entered The Malahat Review’s novella contest and the better story won. Dora’s story, Mask is an epic novella. When I use the word “epic” I mean the genre, not the Barney Stinson phrase (though that applies, too). This novella is about a secret that the main character, Jane, keeps from her mother through childhood to old age, on two continents and through three major wars. If you want to know the secret, you’ll have to read the damn story like the rest of us.
Dora Dueck has a Mennonite background. She comes from a tradition of conscientious objectors. In Russia, both of her grandfathers served as medics in the war because of their conviction to never take a life. This novel is not a rage against the war machine but it does tell the story of the relational casualties of war in one family. In the novella, Jane’s father survived the First World War disfigured. For most of his life he wears a mask to cover this up. His wife is the only one who sees him as he is. His own daughter grows up knowing the mask instead of the man.
It wouldn’t be right to say that this is a novella about war. Rather, it is about what remains in the long shadow that war casts. Perhaps there is no such thing as surviving a war. Perhaps it always takes something from you that is irretrievable and this affects the ones you love when you return.