It seemed ironic to me that I began reading Penny Loves Wade, Wade Loves Penny just after watching The Odyssey by the girls. I saw immediately the parallels between this modern novel and the classic play. Wade is Odysseus, leaving home on a long-haul trucking trip. Penny is Penelope, keeping everything going at home while waiting patiently for Wade to return.
Now in their 50s, Wade and Penny are finally on their own. Their twin children are off to university in other parts of Canada. Wade’s abusive father has died, passing the ranch—and his debts—onto his son.
While Wade trucks for extra cash, Penny tries to figure out what she can do to help alleviate the debt: substitute teach at the local high school, board horses, sell pumpkins, sell gravel, sell crafts at the local fair.
The narrative goes back and forth between Wade on the road with his trucking buddy Norman, and Penny at home with the horses and chores wondering when Wade’s cheques will arrive. Woodward takes us effortlessly into each spouse’s thoughts, showing two sides to the memories, the farm, the motivations behind what they do. Through it all, it’s clear that in every thing they’ve been through over the years, it has always been Penny loves Wade and Wade loves Penny.
Penny Loves Wade, Wade Loves Penny grabbed me from the very first sentences. I wanted to see how Penny made a go of it on the farm, when Wade figured out what Norman was up to and how he made it back again. Both are intensely likeable, unique characters, struggling to navigate life after a huge change. I loved Penny’s creativity and perseverance, her ability to tackle everything from building a wire horse gate to teaching recalcitrant high schoolers.
Woodward’s novel spans the province of BC. The ranch sits in northern Alberta, in a small town where everyone knows everyone and Penny’s debts are the subject of cafe conversations. Wade’s trucking business takes him to Vancouver Island and the Okanagan and back again. Having driven some of those highways, I found it interesting to read about them from a trucker’s perspective of gearing down on the hills or creeping along the windy sections.
Caroline Woodward lives, works and writes on the Lennard Island Lightstation near Tofino, BC. Before becoming a lighthouse keeper, she worked in nearly every part of the literary world, from book reviewer to book seller. She grew up on a homestead similar to Penny’s. She has written five novels.
I won this novel from Oolichan Books in their online contest several years ago. Drop by to enter to win books for yourself and your library too. Plus, check out their other great titles, like Snowdrift and Far From Botany Bay.