Synopsis of Sundown Salute
No-No Westerly is thirty-eight years old and anxious for Mr. Right to appear. She wants nothing more than to meet the perfect man and start a family of her own. As far as she can see, there’s just one little problem: her mother.
For the past three years, No-No has been taking care of Mum. Their life together has been a long succession of arguments, tests of will and resentment. No-No puts the blame squarely on her mother for her unfulfilled dreams. But is she really the one holding No-No back?
No-No begins to question this belief while sitting in a hospital, waiting for Mum to awaken from a coma. As hours become days and days turn into a succession of memories, she alternates between blaming her mother and finding fault with herself.
Weaving through five decades and three regions of Canada, No-No’s story illustrates the differences not only in culture but also in traditions between the Maritimes, Quebec and the West Coast. From the sixties to the present day, family has had a strong hold on No-No. But why was her younger brother, Wee Willy, able to leave Nova Scotia and the family behind so completely?
The painful answers come to No-No when, fearing the worst, she beckons her brother to cross the country and say good-bye to his mother. With his arrival, No-No must face the part of her past she has buried. Sibling rivalry, bygone hurts and betrayals push to the surface and with them the memories of a life before and after the tragic death of their father.
Dolores means sorrow, I learned. It’s Spanish and her nickname should have been Lolita.
“Her name is Do,” I tell the nurse. “You know, like Do, a deer, a female deer.”
I croak out the notes in a flat G then finish the rest of the couplet in my head the way I sang it as a child. “She should have married Ray, a drop of golden sun.”
Instead she married Little William, filled to the rim with drops of golden rum. So the coma isn’t the start of her sorrow. Far from it.
In the midst of this maelstrom of emotion, Do Westerly awakens from her coma and sends No-No and Wee Willy into a tailspin of fresh antagonism. Who will she choose to live with: the son who abandoned her twenty years ago or the daughter who has begrudgingly come to her rescue over and over again?
In spite of her assertions that her mother has ruined her chances at marital bliss, No-No finds herself battling Wee Willy over ownership of their mother and with her, their past.
Just as the tension between brother and sister is about to break, Aunt Sissy arrives from Cape Breton to offer a third solution. Do’s family seeks to reclaim the sister they lost so many years before. Who will have the strongest pull on Do’s heart?
At the conclusion of the novel, No-No learns a valuable lesson about loving and letting go. She accepts that Do going to live with her brother, his wife and three kids is the best solution for herself and her mother. And for the first time in almost thirty years, the Westerly family heals over a hole in its heart.
As more of us find ourselves in the role of caregiver to frail or elderly parents, we see buried resentments and family disputes return to haunt us. Is there a way to break free of ties forged in our youth and see our families for the people they are, or are we doomed to repeat the same patterns? This novel takes an unblinking yet humorous look at those who refuse to let go of the grief, despair and disappointments that shadow our lives.