Catching the Light by Susan Sinnott

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“This was the line between here and there. No landwash, no vague intertidal zone, no undecided. She stood at the edge, a mass of instincts and yearnings and despair, while the dawn painted itself in around her, shade by delicate shade.”

Catching the Light is a lovely book that initially appealed to me due to its setting, with much of it taking place in a small fictional town in Newfoundland as well as the very real city of Halifax, Nova Scotia. The story mainly focuses on two characters: Cathy, a talented young artist who is struggling in school and is an outcast in the community, and Hutch, a popular kid in school who is charismatic, athletic, and ambitious. Through alternating points of view we follow each of these characters over the course of a few years, from high school through university, as they deal with personal struggles, insecurities, obstacles, successes, and failures. Cathy desires, more than anything, to be an artist and to leave the small town of Mariner’s Cove, however her struggle with reading has set her back and there is a great sense of hopelessness and impossibility when she thinks about where she wants to be, and what she wants to achieve. Hutch, on the other hand, seems to have it all figured out with plans A through C, and to him it is just a matter of time before he is on his way to achieving whatever he sets his mind to. However, a tragic event changes everything and he is forced to reevaluate his future.ย 

The story and set-up of Catching the Light seems pretty straightforward, but it is anything but. There is a special quality to this novel that comes from the author’s writing style, which has a poetic feel to it and at times reads like a stream of consciousness. It is quite different from anything I have read in the past, and although it took me a couple of chapters to fully get into the groove, I loved the storytelling. The way specific events and life in general slowly unravel but at the same time are breezed through works so well, and gives a somewhat nostalgic feel to the passage of time. I did find that I cared more about Cathy and her journey, and for much of the story I had mixed feelings about Hutch’s character. This is one of those books I was happy to sit and spend an evening with. The writing is lovely, and I truly cared about the outcome for these characters. Catching the Light is a notable debut and a very worthy read.

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