What Is Left the Daughter is written from the perspective of Wyatt Hillyer, who is writing a letter to his estranged daughter, Marlais. At the time he composes the letter, he is an aged man with a long life behind him. He wants to inform her of his past and the history that led to her birth. He starts his story when he is seventeen years old, when both his parents committed suicide. They jumped off two different bridges in their town of Halifax, Canada, leaving Wyatt orphaned and alone. They both killed themselves because they were each in love with their next-door neighbor, the beautiful Reese Mac Isaac, a switchboard operator with aspirations of becoming an actress. Immediately after the suicides, Wyatt’s Aunt Constance and Uncle Donald, who attend his parent’s funeral, offer him a place in their home in Middle Economy in Novia Scotia. Donald makes sleds and toboggans for a living, and he offers to train Wyatt in the craft. Wyatt takes them up on their offer and moves in with them, working every day with his uncle in the shed to learn how to make sleds and earn his keep.
Moving in with his aunt and uncle reunites Wyatt with his adopted cousin, Tilda. Wyatt falls in love with her but never confesses his feelings, even though it is apparent to Constance and Donald that he cares for her. Throughout their time together, Tilda never returns Wyatt’s love, even though they become best friends and give each other quite a bit of support. Tilda has a unique occupation—she is a professional mourner. Ministers or family members of the deceased hire professional mourners to come to the funerals of people who do not have many people there to mourn. Tilda gets a lot of mourning jobs and is quite talented at showing grief for the deceased.
The story is set right in the middle of World War II. Wyatt’s Uncle Donald is obsessed with listening to the radio for reports of U-boat attacks and battlefield victories. He spends most of his time in the shed tracking the movements of the Germans in Europe and all of the U-boat attacks that occur in the oceans. He spends so much time following the war news that he becomes distanced from reality; in fact, it causes rifts in his family. Wyatt is unable to work in the shed with him very often because of Donald’s anger and lack of focus, and Constance threatens to leave if he does not get his act together and put his radios away. Tensions also run high in their town, and...
(The entire section is 991 words.)