It should be said at the outset that Joseph Vida’s Tomorrow It Will Be Fine is an outstanding achievement. It is entertaining and absorbing, socially conscious and sure-footed, linguistically extravagant and methodically plotted, sprawling and detailed, witty and trenchant. Its themes are so engrained in Canadian consciousness that the novel’s title can be read as prophetic of the eternal wish and frustrations of immigrants anywhere. Vida has a fine ear for the dialects of both the transplanted and native. His observation of social attitudes and tendencies and his depiction of idioms and jargons are spot on. Yet, the novel goes a little further than that, a little deeper. Few Canadian social novels read like a symphonic work. Joseph Vida’s does.
At its heart, the work is a social novel set in Toronto, which is experiencing a boom after the Second World War. It’s protagonist, Endre, is a Hungarian immigrant seen at an anxious, but illuminating, time in his life. He is beginning to tire of working job after job without any reason to expect a better future. He has suffered numerous defeats, but has held onto his loves, interests, and passions, in spite of pressure from his neighbours to conform to life as they see it. He is a voracious reader, a teller of parables, a lover of children and animals, a cultivator of sensibilities, and a dreamer rooted in personal memory, to an intimate sense of home. Instinctively good, he is a character who radiates intelligence. He possesses a sensitivity to social currencies and experiences pangs of self-knowledge.
Endre has just turned thirty and found love. He must find adequate work to support Sandra, a writer of Irish ancestry, and her daughter, Gwen. He is capable of doing almost anything, but has not received that much-needed break. This problem is the focal point of a novel that offers readers a character whose inner humanity is subject to others’ discrimination and unyielding expectations, to a nationalist disposition that expects absolute compromise at the cost of personal identity, joy and freedom. Endre, interpellated at every turn, sometimes in unhelpful ways that cross lines of good taste, is sufficiently head-strong to offer in his actions, dialogue, and observations a social commentary that makes him an exemplary and interesting Canadian hero.
Aesthetically, the novel offers a symphonic portrayal of the Canadian social landscape. It is generously populated with a great many memorable characters in a great teeming of episodes and plotlines. Endre’s friends and acquaintances are colourful, opinionated, and always outspoken. This means that the dialogue is snappy, shrewd, and entertaining. It is even better than that: it is idiosyncratic, strangely familiar, tickling the ear as dialogue should. Endre’s imagination creates a graceful world out of all of the chaos that surrounds him, and the reader will fondly recall each of his many encounters. Tomorrow It Will Be Fine nearly bursts its seams with narratives of love, life, and the thorny realities for an immigrant in Canadian society. This is layered, webbed, multi-dimensional, and big-hearted fiction.
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