DiscoverComing of Age

Head on Backwards, Chest Full of Sand


Not for me 😔

Sandy Day's novel offers beautiful descriptions but leaves the reader wanting to dig deeper into the protagonists motivations.

Head on Backwards, Chest Full of Sand by Sandy Day is a coming of age story in which the protagonist struggles to fully come-of-age. Livvy, the main character, is a lovestruck young woman who leaves Toronto for the first time to spite her non-committal boyfriend, Kane. Her destination is Cape Breton, to a farm by the sea, where her recently divorced Aunt Donna lives. In this new setting, she is surrounded by strong female characters: her brutally honest Aunt Donna, courageous cousin Hellah, and worldly Amelia. Despite the trio of strong female role-models that surround her in this new place, Livvy, consumed in her thoughts for Kane, remains blind to their wisdom.

Day’s imagery throughout the book is stunning. She evokes the personalities of the landscapes with ease, convincing us of their existence through the small details: shards of ice on a lake, the setting sun viewed through wide windows, the oppressive heat and noise outside an airport. Day transports us to each location that Livvy frequents, in person and in memory, so that we feel as if we have taken the journey with her.

Where Day succeeds at painting external landscapes, she struggles with the internal ones. Livvy is clearly of two minds, motivated equally by her desire to reject and attract the men in her life (namely Kane, but also her father). What is lacking is depth, an insight into the driving force behind her internal paradox. Without it, there is nothing for Livvy, or the reader, to trace back, no origin upon which we might anchor our understanding of Day’s novel. Throughout, the author approaches some semblance of an incipient force behind Livvy’s embodied duality through her thought processes, poems and conversations but she remains wispy, just beyond the readers grasp.

Head on Backwards, Chest Full of Sand was an enjoyable yet somewhat inaccessible read. The external world she creates welcomes us in and invites us to stay but unfortunately her characters are not so engaging. 

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About the author

Sandy Day lives in Georgina, ON, Canada. She is the author of 4 books. She holds a degree in English Lit from Glendon College where her professors included great Canadian writers Michael Ondaatje & bp nichol. Sandy is a writing workshop facilitator & book coach, and dabbles in bookcover design. view profile

Published on February 14, 2020

Published by

30000 words

Genre: Coming of Age

Reviewed by