Smoke from the solder filled his nose, his mouth tasting uncomfortably of blood. Snuffing the rod on a scorched pink sponge, he abandoned the antique clock and stood at the dusty window. He dreaded telling Maud about inheriting his uncle's house. She was prone to overreacting. Their marriage, plagued by the usual upsets of conjugal life, suffered added tensions, for across the sea, their tribes had been deeply scornful of each other for centuries.
Jacob's death had been the first shock, but Samuel deliberated longer over the second: his unexpected inheritance. The first call had come days ago, after dinner, during Samuel and Maud's only shared hour of the day. Already weary of each other's company, they settled down in the living room with the resignation of people fated to die together.
Samuel took up his favorite oak rocker, Maud the beige shag chair, and the clicking of her knitting needles filled the room. They won't even talk to me. Their world begins and ends with each other, without a care for anyone else. Samuel sighed, scrutinizing his wife. She was thin as an iron filing, with a face straight out of a daguerreotype, an antiquated beauty inherited from her father.
Her church friends so indulged her worries that Samuel, too, found he had to stomach her complaints good-naturedly. She took everything personally. Maud continued to knit in silence, thinking. The twins really had changed. Only Yvette spoke, and she wasted few words.
Maud couldn't understand it. As babies they'd been so different she'd corrected the doctor's proclamation that they were identical. Now they'd grown so similar she couldn't always say with great authority who was who.
The Second Life of Samuel Tyne | Quill and Quire
But she suspected it was her own fault. The thought of being responsible unsteadied her hands, and the sound of her nervously working needles began to irritate Samuel. He'd been lost in his own meditations, contemplating what to fix next so that he would not have to think of his stifling job. Officially, Samuel was a government-employed economic forecaster, but when asked lately how he made his living, he lacked the passion to explain.
The civil service now seemed an arena for men who woke to find their hopes burnt out. Every day, he too grew disillusioned. Even his children had become a distant noise. Samuel was the oldest forty in the world. Yet fear of quitting his job did not unnerve him -- it seemed only practical that he should fear it.
Samuel Tyne by Esi Edugyan
What humiliated him was that he failed to quit because he dreaded his wife's wrath. Agitated, he'd begun to run through ways of asking Maud to stop knitting so loudly, when the phone rang. People rarely called the house, so Samuel and Maud paused for a moment in their chairs. Finally, Maud dropped her lapful of yarn to the carpet, saying, "I'll get it, just like everything else in this house. Samuel stared at the empty armchair. From the kitchen her voice droned on; he could pick out only the higher words.
But they were enough. His chair began to rock, unsummoned, in what seemed like a human, futile move to pacify him. His childhood came back to him, a bitter string of incidents more felt than remembered. And the memories seemed full of such delicate meaning that he might have been experiencing his own death. When he opened his eyes, his wife stood before him, uncomfortable.
I guess he didn't mention he had family? She went quietly back to her chair. One technique Edugyan uses to develop her characters is to weave in and out of their various perspectives. In this way, we learn the history of everyone from Samuel to Ama to Eudora Frank and see the story unfold through their eyes. Also, why do you think Edugyan never writes from the perspective of the twins?
How successful have the Tynes been in recreating themselves as "Canadians? Reviewers have praised Esi Edugyan for her depiction of small-town life in Alberta, particularly for characters like Eudora and Ray Frank. Throughout the novel, Samuel interprets numerous minor events as signs of his "luck" — everything from making it onto the roof without cutting himself to stopping for lunch with Ray while shop-hunting. How is this typical of his character? Did it leave you unsatisfied, or is it appropriate for the story being told?
Despite his intelligence, Samuel is nervous around others to the point of being unable to sustain any normal human interaction — not even with his wife and daughters, who need him most. Why do you think he cuts himself off so completely? Is there anyone who truly understands him? And does he change at all over the course of the novel?
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The twins are perhaps the most difficult characters to understand in this novel. Discuss the relationship between Yvette and Chloe, and how they interact with the world around them. What kind of a person is Maud? What kind of atmosphere is Edugyan creating? Can these homes be seen as reflections of their owners as Eudora might say? Is there anyone in this novel who takes control of his or her own life?
Saul Porter tells the story of the first black immigrants who settled in Aster and tried to survive not only the harsh environment but also the racism of both the government and other Albertans. What role do Porter and his wife play in this novel? How are these missed opportunities for relationships at the heart of this novel?
I have wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. Reading was encouraged in my childhood, and there was rarely a moment when I wasn't engaged in some book. But I suppose it wasn't until I attended university that I realized creative writing was something one might seriously do as a profession.
A teacher recommended the University of Victoria, largely because of its co-operative program in journalism, which seemed to me a great fall back plan should the creative route not work out.
The second life of Samuel Tyne : a novel
After a single journalism course I dismissed that path entirely and devoted myself to studying and writing poetry and fiction. I began the book with two clear ideas in mind: an odd pair of twins, and the image of an all-black hamlet that had existed in Alberta from just after the turn of the century to just before the second world war. Twins have always held a fascination for me — and they are a popular one in the public imagination as well, when you consider that a very small percentage of the population are twins, but every year dozens of books are written about them.
It strikes me as quite an insular relationship, and I wanted to explore the intensity of that kind of bond.
As for the settlement that the book is based upon — Amber Valley — it was a surprise to me to find out such a thing had ever existed. It's certainly not a part of Albertan history learned in school. It was a piece of our past waiting to be explored.
How does your relationship with your parents' homelandfigure into the book? I think that any child of immigrants can't help but develop a relationship with their parents' homeland, even if only by proxy. Ghanaian culture has made up a large part of my life, the presence of its customs, etc. In writing about two Ghanaian characters, there was the opportunity to juxtapose that mode of life with Canadian culture, which appealed to me for obvious reasons.
This isn't to say that the novel is autobiographical. I've merely taken small cultural details from my life and built on them. What is your relationship with Amber Valley? What kind of research were you involved in to create the town of Aster? The discovery of Amber Valley's existence and other settlements like it, such as Campsie, Wildwood, Breton was the main spur for the novel.
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During the first draft, my conception of Aster was loosely based on information from a number of textual sources.
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