At A Loss For Words by Diane Schoemperlen


It sometimes happens that a book that no one particularly likes generates an excellent discussion. This was the case with Canadian writer Diane Schoemperlen’s book At A Loss For Words.  One woman in my book club actually said: “I knew you wouldn’t want me to finish it.”

I didn’t actually have any trouble finishing the book, but not because it was the most original or beautiful or innovative book I’ve ever read about the nature of love. The story is rife with cliches and prose so purple you might think you’re scarfing grape jelly by the jar.

An unnamed woman rekindles a relationship with an old boyfriend. She and this guy (also unnamed) had a  fairly serious thing which, one gathers, ended rather badly 30 years ago. She’s a writer, but since renewing her relationship with this guy, she’s unable to write. The story (such as it is) consists mostly of her lists of writing prompts and her e-mail correspondence with the man a sort of he said, she said only in this case it’s I said, you said.

To say that I didn’t believe a word of what they said to each other would be harsh, but really who talks like this?

“I do appreciate these thoughts. I want to say how much I welcome and treasure everything you say. Your letters are too wonderful! You life my spirits immeasurably with all that you write. You warm me up on this gray damp day”  (59).

As soon as this relationship is consummated, it begins to unravel. The woman starts clinging and the man starts pulling away and the denouement is neither original or shocking. In addition, you sort of wanted to shake her a little; I mean, she’s a successful writer and she’s not 20- couldn’t she sort of see this coming?

Still, who hasn’t been in love with the wrong guy…maybe even the wrong guy on more than one occasion. Hands up! So, while none of us were enamoured with Schoemperlen’s rather writerly tale, we had lots and lots of fun talking about rekindled passion, first love and our very first (after 10 years in book club) discussion of orgasms.

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