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Be Sure to Close Your Eyes

The year is 1908, and Mary-Beth Sleaford is a five-year-old girl living in the countryside just north of Toronto. She etches an angel into a tower that her father, Professor John Sleaford, is building, one of many he will erect over the next eighteen years. Eventually Mary-Beth and her family move west to Saskatchewan, but one day, as an adult, she returns to the ruin of that first tower and discovers that her angel is almost as bright as the day she carved it with a piece of brick. rnrnIn Be Sure to Close Your Eyes Hugh Hood chronicles the social life of Canada in those years and recaptures the excitement of a time in our country when so much was new and so many things still seemed possible. rnrnHood’s heroine, the artist Mary-Beth Sleaford, is a true representative of her age. She embodies the English-Canadian character — reticent and caught between American exuberance and British reserve. The three men in her life are also facets of the greater Canadian psyche. Her father is an eccentric inventor imbued with the spirit of Americanism. Petter Arnesson, her first fianc√©, is a Prairie jazz cornetist with overhwelming artistic ambition tempered with the necessary practicality of the immigrant. And finaly Earl Codrington, the pragmatist who becomes her husband, is a small-town Ontario businessman with an optimistic eye on the future. rnrnMary-Beth, in her journey from eastern to western Canada and then back east again, moves from the heights of love and joy to the depths of despair and tragedy, only to rise once more with the promise of newfound fulfillment. There is much of heaven in Be Sure to Close Your Eyes, but there are also glimpses of the darker side of life, and at least one bona fide emotional shocker. rn

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