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[157] Landing – Emma Donoghue

“They could never say good night or good morning without laughing at the incongruity of it, the dissonance. The timing was awful: Their biorhythms never matched. Sometimes Sile was going to bed, wanting to flirt sleepily, and Jude was frying garlic or dashing out to a meeting or off to play pool with Rizla…Out of sight, not out of mind. Sile told herself at solitary moments. This was like prayer, she supposed: talking in your head, keeping faith with the invisible.” [199]

Is George L. Jackson to blame or to thank? The seventy-something-year-old man who dies asleep on a trans-Atlantic flight to London, Jude Turner’s first, creates the chance of her meeting Sile O’Saughnessy, the flight attendant who bends over and certifies him. Jude Turner is a twenty-five-year-old archivist who is stubbornly attached to the tiny town of Ireland, Ontario, where she was born and raised. The tom-boy certainly belongs to the antiques age. Sile is a chic, stylish thirty-nine-year-old from Dublin. Nineteen years with the airline prunes her to be a season traveler. She has been with her partner, Kathleen, for five years.

The medical emergency has spawned their long-distance romance, which calls for patience and forbearance. To the consternation of her friends, Sile leaves Kathleen for practically a stranger with whom she has met once but maintained the relationship at electronic arm’s length. Not to mention Jude lives five time zones away, and in the eyes of many, she is the greedy, selfish wrecker who robs someone of her happiness. In the course of one year, Jude and Sile’s relationship builds upon numerous dispatches over the cyberspace and a couple visits.

As extreme their situation is, they are confronted with the same troubling issues that challenge many who maintain relationships by plane, phone and internet. Landing (pun intended) explores the pleasures and sorrows of a long-distance relationship in every possible nuance. So ironic that no sooner has the relationship become serious do these fear and qualm kick in—and the cause of which is not love but the physical separation. Jude smartly puts in “the intersection of love and geography.” The issue transcends whether one is committed or not, but the incongruity of time and the discontinuity of sharing:

“The what and who and why is easy, it’s just the when and where.” [249]

They can only console with the thought that separation spares them from claustrophobic living and bestows some breathing space. As to keeping secrets, even people who share the house would have told lies. But deep down inside they agonize over how distance has inevitably added to their differences. The unbridgeable gap between words and flesh constantly remind them the truth to which they are sensitive and which they avoid: As soon as you kiss goodbye you snap back into the busy-busy world of routines and mundanity without one another.

Landing does not impress me with its initial snippets of flirtations and e-mail exchanges, although the dialogues really knock my head spinning. They are just hilarious. But Donoghue is only paving her way to something more provocative—the rhetorical inquiry of love over generational, geographical, and demographical differences. The narrative exudes a sense of urgency, to seize the moment and pursue what out heart desires. Throughout the novel the time is warped as it seems to slow down when the lovers are in longing. After all, everyone who is in the same shoe as Jude and Sile has to make up his own mind. What would you give up for love?

I would do whatever it takes to make it work if there is mutual feeling.

The Sunday Salon: Making History

The Sunday Salon.comThe back-to-school month has not seen a decrease in my reading. In fact, I have just broken the record of the number of books read in a month. Landing by Emma Donoghue is my 9th book for September. In this romance comedy of a novel, she explores with a light, sure touch the subject of desire across distances of various kinds: generational, cultural, even spiritual. Two women meets on a trans-Atlantic plane and spawns a long-distance relationship. Sile O’Shaughnessy, 39, is a stylish, seasoned flight attendant living in Dublin; Jude Turner, 25, is a hardworking historian at a museum in tiny Ireland, Ontario. You may call their meeting a serendipitous moment in life: It’s Jude embarks on her first plane trip—to England, where her mother has taken ill. The passenger next to Jude expires en route, an omen that works two ways: prefiguring Jude’s mother’s death, which will leave her alone in the house they shared, and signaling a connection between her and Sile, who’s working that flight.

Despite moments of jokes, Landing so far doesn’t live up to the engrossing suspense of the historical fiction Slammerkin, her previous work. But it does explore the intersection of love and geography. Jude and Síle have a far more dimensional relationship because of their differences. The long-distance relationship plays into this uncertainty, adding layers to the story but also keeping the women’s relationship somewhat superficial, especially when Síle leaves her partner for five years, Kathleen, for Jude, who is practically a stranger until they meet again in Toronto. Do dykes really pair up so quickly and are not as sensible as the gay boys? I’m keeping my fingers cross on this one. One hundred and sixteen (116) pages read on Day One.

“The minutes crawled by. I’m an utter shit. Síle thought. I can’t believe I’m going to do this. I’m throwing away nearly five years, five pretty good years. But then it struck her like a rush of cold air that the years were gone. You didn’t stay with someone because of memory and gratitude, not unless you were a wife in some nineteenth-century novel. It had to be worth it today. How lazy I’ve been, drifting toward this moment!” [101]