on November 13, 2009
I hated seeing this single review below spoil the rating for this unique and wonderful story. Gabriel English is a tightly-written protagonist whose faults and jealousies are made plain on the page as he struggles into adulthood alongside his best friend, David Twombly, a larger-than-life man-boy, who never quite escapes his father's notoriety and stigma.
The story is essentially a road-trip novel, though the road trip doesn't start until about half way through. Before that we get a history of the main forces, of Gabriel's love of his home town of Cornerbrook, NF, and David's separateness, having come from Michigan with his family as a boy. What unites them is the attraction to Nell Tarkington, a beautifully aloof soul to arrives in Cornerbrook for university, barely over her parents' death in a plane crash months earlier.
The book is at times random, and highly improbably, which gives it an element of magical realism mixed with the optimism of a technological future that science fiction brings. David and Nell work for a high-tech company that produces communications devices that will one day likely exist, though in the world of the novel, stand out among the glaring contemporary nature of the world they live in. This is a world of contrasts: money and poverty; moral ambiguity and certainty; real and unreal. The dialogue melds into the rest of the words like poetry; sometimes it is difficult to tell what is coming out of Gabriel's mouth, or out of his head. But that makes it even more compelling, when you realize the flawed nature of those thoughts.
The book's climax is disgusting, heart-wrenching and tragic. I loved it. In fact, I loved the whole novel and look forward to reading Winter's other books. Reading it, I fell in love with Newfoundland, and with the literary versions of Toronto and Montreal depicted so effortlessly by Winter.
I would heartily recommend this book, especially to cozy up to by a fire on a cold winter day. You need to brace yourself for the harder, trying moments of this novel. But getting through it was extremely rewarding.