Trevor Corkum Reviews A Wholly Satisfying Story from David Bergen
Out of Mind
Goose Lane Editions
David Bergen’s new novel, Out of Mind, finds the Giller winner at the top of his game. The story takes us deep into the mind of Lucille Black, an observant psychiatrist, worried mother and secret lover.
Companion to Bergen’s earlier novel, The Matter with Morris, this latest offering follows Lucille as she journeys from Winnipeg to Thailand to try to rescue her daughter from a shady cult leader, and then on to France where she has agreed to attend the wedding of a younger friend.
A deeply analytical and compelling narrator, Lucille’s travels serve as the narrative cladding for a rich and rewarding examination of memory, identity and loss. Deep into the second act of life, Lucille feels she is coming apart, still reeling from the death of her son in Afghanistan and seemingly adrift in her personal and professional life.
Bergen seems to borrow from Rachel Cusk’s highly successful trilogy of novels (Outline, Transit, Kudos), in which a peripatetic female narrator comes to life through an accretion of minute observations, tangled memory loops and elaborate fantasies.
As we begin to make sense of Lucille’s vulnerability, and the intricate defenses which keep others at a careful remove, our reading pleasure comes from the familiar and wholly satisfying experience of identifying with another person sorting through life’s larger questions: should I risk emotional safety for a dangerous sort of love? What happens if I lose my bearings in the world?
Bergen’s prose here is more meandering than his last novel, the tautly executed Giller-longlisted The Stranger. As a result, Lucille’s life feels much like our own: a zigzag wandering of melancholy and regret, with small physical pleasures thrown in: an extra glass of wine, a long nap. There are no false epiphanies here, no neatly improbable resolutions.
In any case, Out of Mind is a wholly satisfying story that lingers long after the final page.