The Ladies’ Lending Library
Kalyna Beach is the summer home of a close-knit group of Ukranian Canadian women and their children. The women meet to drink cocktails and discuss the racy novels of the day, their daughters are obsessed with the movie Cleopatra, and their husbands visit on the weekends. This summer is different, though—tensions are higher, the children are getting older and more worldly, and minor rivalries between the women have increased.
Keefer attempts to present a microcosm of society in her Kalyna Beach families, showing how they respond to the societal changes that took place in North America during the early 1960s. While there are some interesting characters, especially the children, and some entertaining narrative threads, the lack of a main character or an ongoing conflict makes the novel difficult to follow. There are no chapters, just three lengthy ”parts” that divide the novel neatly into thirds, making the frequent shifts back and forth between the adults’ point of view and the children’s point of view distracting. Despite being mentioned in the title, the women’s book group comes off as a somewhat-misleading afterthought, since this is more a novel of women’s inner lives than it is an easily-marketable novel of women’s friendships. Depending on your point of view, The Ladies’ Lending Library is either as leisurely and meandering as a summer day at the beach, or as slow-going and frustrating as the traffic on the way home at the end of the season.