In 1982, the oil rig Ocean Ranger sank off the coast of Newfoundland during a Valentine’s Day storm. All eighty-four men aboard died. February is the story of Helen O’Mara, one of those left behind when her husband, Cal, drowns on the rig. It begins in the present-day, more than twenty-five years later, but spirals back again and again to the “February” that persists in Helen’s mind and heart.
In ‘February’ we follow Helen at various points in her life, but the whole story seems to pivot on the moment of the rig collapsing.
We see her in the present, in her role as grandmother, as a young woman and as a wife whose husband is one of the many killed when the oil rig he is working on collapses.
At times, the story felt like rummaging through one of those memory boxes. Some recollections were more vivid than others – and it was only Helen and her son, John, who really felt clearly portrayed – but the events recollected combine to form a picture of one woman and her life.
What was evident throughout this story is that Helen is not, in many ways, a remarkable woman. She lives her life and deals with what life throws at her with stoicism, but throughout we are given a picture of resilience and strength.
This is not a fast-moving story, rather ideas are unravelled and we slowly come to understand this character.