I finished this in the middle of the night last night - mostly because I just wanted to move on, but knew that I had to finish this novel so I could at least say I read it in it's entirety. I don't believe it was firmly entrenched in the Can Lit Cannon when I was studying Can Lit, otherwise I would have come across it sooner.
It reminded me a lot of "The Stone Angel" in following the life of a women of little consequence. And there is also that novel by Ethel Wilson called "The Innocent Traveler" which is also similarly plotted. This is all to say that the concept of following an ordinary woman's life isn't something new. Wilson wrote in the 50s, as did Margaret Lawrence. Shields' book is printed in '93.
One of her reviewers calls her a miniaturist. Perhaps here is where her work is set apart. She is able to capture moments in Daisy Goodwill's life and polish them with the patina of short fiction. She also changes style throughout the novel to reflect Daisy's life in those moments. As the novel progresses, the lyric story-telling that characterizes the earlier chapters gives way to a more rushed passing over of details. She takes the liberty of someone outside her protagonist's life and offers us - what I felt - was like a constant eulogy throughout the novel. It was almost as if she was trying to give Daisy Goodwill's life more meaning that it might have been assigned.
So, I recommend reading the novel because of its place in Can Lit. It stands in a long line of tomes that bemoan the life of an average woman, and although I don't necessarily think this style of novel is uniquely Canadian, it certainly establishes a stronger Canadian presence within the sub-genre. But it's diverging, as all novels for pleasure reading should be.