Canadian writer Robert J. Wiersema packs a punch with his novella, The World More Full of Weeping. On the day before going to spend a week with his mother in the city, eleven-year-old Brian disappears in the woods behind his father’s house. Wiersema manages to capture both the frantic search, and Brian’s journey in the forest in 77 short pages.
Part of the novella’s success can be attributed to Wiersema’s split narrative. Beginning in present day, Brian shares breakfast with his father who explains to him that his mother will be picking him up at four. Brian clearly doesn’t want to go, but lacks the ability, it seems, to articulate his feelings. Instead, he tells his father, Jeff, that “Carly said you wouldn’t understand.”
Carly’s true identity is just one of the mysteries of The World More Full of Weeping. Who is Carly? At first she just seems like a girl Brian meets in the woods. But after Brian goes missing and Jeff calls over to his neighbour John’s to see if he’s seen him, the mention of her name causes John to encourage Jeff to call “Chuck Minette at the Search and Recuse…call him right now.”
Many years ago, Jeff also went missing in the woods only to turn up the next day. When men from the community come to help look for Brian, it’s clear everyone thinks his disappearance might be a case of “like father, like son,” with the same happy outcome.
While the search for Brian continues, we see him in the woods with Carly, who is always in the same thin dress despite the uncertain March weather, her cheeks “pink and rosy.” Carly knows secret places in the woods, places Brian has not ever seen. She asks him if he wants to “see more hidden things” and promises she can show him “a whole hidden world in the forest.”
There are no concrete answers in The World More Full of Weeping. The only certainty is that when given the opportunity Jeff and Brian made different choices. Perhaps some readers will take comfort in Brian’s decision, but for me I can’t quite get the picture of Jeff on his knees, crying for what is lost, out of my head.
A magical and profoundly moving story.