In a Cape Breton family of black sheep, Mary is pure as the driven snow. She is patient and kind with her alcoholic grandmother and volatile mother, loyal and attentive to her spoiled cousin, and pleasant and polite all day as a grocery cashier. Her well-off aunt, the only other normal person in the family, wants to help her more, but Mary’s mother is too prickly and proud. So Mary goes to work, comes home, takes care of her family, and wonders if there’ll ever be more to life.
When a young couple moves into the apartment upstairs, it sparks a series of changes that leads to major family revelations, and Mary discovers that sometimes doing the wrong thing is the exact right thing to do.
Tender, authentic, and crackling with Lesley Crewe’s irrepressible humour, Mary, Mary is a book for anyone who’s ever had a family…good, bad, or a messy mix of both.
But there was no peace or goodwill in the Ryan’s rusty Dodge spirit that afternoon.
“Ya should’ve let Mary drive! You’re all over the friggin’ road.”
“Ma, shut the hell up! I’m trying to concentrate.”
“Concentrating on crashing into light poles!”
Mary was in the front passenger seat with a Sobeys bag in her lap that contained her relatives’ gifts. Her legs were ramrod straight as she tried to brake a non-existent brake pedal. “Why can’t I drive?”
Carole leaned into the steering wheel and wiped at the condensation on the window. “I’ve been driving since before you were born.”
“Mom, don’t go so fast. We don’t have snow tires.”
“Can’t afford them.”
Ethel was bundled up in the back seat looking like an apple doll. “Oh, here we go. The ‘woe is me’ speech.”
“I’m stating a fact.”
“Then why don’t you let your sister buy you some?”
Carole swivelled her head back to look at her mother. “I’m not accepting charity!”
“Mom, watch where you’re going!”
Somehow they managed to make it over to Coxheath without slipping into Blackett’s Lake. As they approached Peggy’s street, Carole’s scowl deepened. “Look at these places. They have more money than brains.”
Peggy’s home was perched on a bit of a hill, looking over the water. It was a classic Cape Cod, nestled into the immaculate landscaping with a wide veranda and paver driveway stretching right to the highway.
“I love these twinkle lights in the window boxes,” Ethel said. “Your sister always had good taste.”
Carole gunned the engine and slipped and slid almost to the top of the hill, but slowly started to roll backwards. After several more attempts with everyone also rocking forward to gather a little momentum, they ended up careening down the driveway and landing in the ditch on the other side of the road.
Carole turned off the engine and lit a cigarette. Mary and Ethel knew better that to speak to her. The three of them sat in silence, fogging up the windows and getting colder by the minute. Carole took her last drag and flung the butt outside. “Alright. We have no choice but to trudge up the hill. Mary, you’re in charge of your grandmother. I’ll take the gifts.”
Mary had a hard time trying to get her Gran out of the car; the snow bank created by the plow was quite deep and her grandmother was wearing the short zippered ankle boots she’d bought in the 1950s.
“Mary! Get her from the other side. Honestly, I have to think of everything.”
“Get back Gran and slide over to the other side. It’ll be easier.”
“Easier? I’m so cold now I can’t move my knees.”
Mary poked her head out of the car. “You’re going to have to help me scoot her over the seat. She can’t move on her own.”
“Why don’t you stay with Gran. I’ll go get Uncle Ted.”
Mary ran up the long driveway and was out of breath when she got to the front door. She pushed down on the handle but it was locked. She rang the bell over and over again while pounding her fist. When it finally opened, Aunt Peggy, Uncle Ted, and Sheena were gathered in the foyer looking concerned.
“Mary! What’s wrong?”
“Uncle Ted, we couldn’t get up the driveway and the car landed in the ditch. We can’t get Gran out of the back seat.”
Everyone sprang to action, getting on their winter coats and boots. They skidded down the snow-covered driveway in a pack, Peggy carrying a fleece throw. Carole was by the car door smoking a cigarette.
“Is she alright?” Peggy yelled.
“Of course she’s alright. Alcohol doesn’t freeze.”