First, I'd like to say that whoever (whomever?) signed this at Wiley Canada is a frickin' genius. Thank you.
Second, Corked was obviously a labour of love at Wiley. Everything about the package is good - from the squarish, irregular size (it feels and looks almost like a scrapbook), to the quirky, heavily-inked interior illustrations and maps to the bold yellow cover. Production credits are listed prominently inside and while author Kathryn Borel Jr. deserves the bulk of the thanks for this bodacious read, kudos must also be given to the team who turned this book into something irresistible.
OK, on to the meat and potatoes.
You must read this book. You. Must. Read. This. Book. Borel's voice is heart-felt and ludicrous and sly all in one and the prose bounces along effortlessly. The story of a father and daughter re-connecting during a wine tour of France brilliantly escapes any usual cliches of memoir - do or die mother-daughter bonding, chick lit Valley girl hair braiding, earnest spiritual insight - and mines the emotional snares of that much neglected duo - dad and daughter.
Phillipe Borel, Borel's father, is also sheer comedic gold, whether he's wheedling Kathryn to steal him bread, pitifully playing up his knee injury, grimly announcing Borel's ill-fated tennis matches before their conclusion (thaaaat's the game!) or blissfully mining his ears for golden globs of wax. When he turns to Kathryn when a friend's infant is being passed around and whispers, "Do you ever get the feeling that you just want to take a baby and kick it across the room and watch it smash against the wall?", I almost fainted with delight.
Easy there. EASY. It's just, don't you get that hysterical feeling to do something totally awful sometimes? Not like you would, but sometimes the thoughts just come unbidden...and no one ever talks about them. Borel does, bless her.
There has been many complaints filed online that Borel is unbearably annoying. I find this astonishing. She's so quick, so smart, so open - painfully open, raw-red-wound-and-a-ton-of-salt-being-rubbed-into-it-open. It's a delicious honesty, akin to realizing the coolest person you know also hates the small talk involved in socializing.
I felt great relief in reading about her intense emotional reactions, especially those insane, childish ones you have towards parents. For example, Borel is nursing (yet another) secret hurt and when her father blurts out something honest that refuses her permission to mine that anger she writes, "DAMMIT. I shifted the hot pan of my injury to a back burner." Classic.
The final climactic scene in chapter 11 is explosive and shocking. Borel doesn't hold back her rancour towards her unpredictable and occasionally hurtful father. Their subsequent painful efforts to rebuild their relationship are terribly brave and should prove to any naysayers that think the book indulgent that real emotional work is contained here, work that should be applauded. Neither Borel (her behavior towards her ex is wholly self-serving) or Phillippe (whose rage issues and disconnection are sometimes appalling) are perfect but what Corked proves is that often we don't understand people fully and that if we only took the time to communicate honestly, we can understand the real, and forgivable, person behind the sins.
As Phillipe says, "Tou Tou, please remember. Your life is no longer your own once you are loved."
Oh and did I mention that there's plenty of orgasmic talk about some of the best wines in the world? Read. It.
Corked: A Memoir/ Kathryn Borel Jr. / Wiley / HC, 2009