JoAnne Soper-Cook is such a spell-binding storyteller that she can lead her willing captives almost anywhere. In her new story collection, The Opium Lady, she draws her readers into the far corners of human yearning.
The Opium Lady resembles a photo album of an extensive family, with a picture at the beginning of each story. The snapshots were taken between perhaps 1910 and 1955, and most of the events in the stories are contemporary with the snapshots, but a curious atmosphere of the present day hovers over all and finds its way into the narrator's voice.
Soon shadowy connections appear, and it becomes clear that in some way the narrator herself is implicated. Among the motley cast are rich people and poor people, men, women, and children, the scandalizers and the scandalized, housewives and farmers, tradesmen, charlatans, and ne'er-do-wells. It's clear that there are connections and that all of the pieces fit together, but Soper-Cook hands over the missing link only at the end of this fascinating book, once the narrator's identity and secret are revealed.
JoAnne Soper-Cook was born in outport Newfoundland and now lives in St. John's. Soper-Cook got her start as a writer at the age of eight, when her mother mailed a story she'd written in to the editor of a local newspaper, who published it She is the author of four critically acclaimed novels: Waterborne (published by Goose Lane Editions in 2002), The Wide World Dreaming, Waking the Messiah and A Cold-Blooded Scoundrel (published as an ebook). The Opium Lady is her first book of stories. The daughter of a long line of Newfoundland fishermen, JoAnne Soper-Cook was raised by a Scottish war bride in a tiny fishing village on a rocky island in the middle of the ocean. She loves to walk and she says that she spends too much time outdoors. Her dog, a Labrador retriever cross, is named Elton John. Her interests include New Age Music, Celtic instrumental, singing in the shower, cult TV, tennis, off-road cycling, and guided meditation. She owns crystals and isn't afraid to use them. Her stories, poetry, and journalism have appeared in TickleAce, Waxing and Waning, Rant, the Muse, Atmospherics and Essays on Canadian Writing and in several Newfoundland newspapers, including the Carbonear Compass, the Southern Gazette and the Clarenville Packet. Her stories and commentary have been broadcast on CBC Radio and her plays have been performed at the Arts and Culture Centre in St. John's. Soper-Cook has also worked as an editor (for Jesperson Press) and as a teacher at colleges and universities in Newfoundland.
"A fractious tale of alarming tones that echo the past and consume the present ... ripe with disillusion and familiarity." — Quill & Quire
"Intense and intriguing." — Globe and Mail
Pub date: October 10, 2003