Lauchlin of the Bad Heart
Harper Collins, 2007 (Uncorrected proof)
Lauchlin MacLean was once a boxer, a darn good one, until he had to quit due to a heart condition. That was decades ago, now he lives with his mother and works in the gas station and corner store his father ran until his death in the remote town of St Aubin, Cape Breton Island. Lauchlin spends his time mulling over in fine detail the glory days of boxing when Nova Scotia had some of the best in the world, as well as, drinking and chasing married women. He has a odd relationship with an old sweetheart, Morag, who shows up every summer. It's the same old, same old. Then Tena walks in his store and changes everything.
Tena is the blind wife of his friend Clement. Tena is worried about the relationship Clement has with his business partner, Ged Cooper. Ged is an angry man, with a axe to grind. When Clement parts with him, Ged starts a dangerous game of intimidation. Lauchlin finds himself caught up in their lives, feeling sympathy for Clement and adoration for Tena.
Lauchlin of the Bad Heart is at times monotonous, all the boxing reminisces nearly bored me to tears (not a sports fan), but the suspense part of the story was enjoyable. Lauchlin was a likable character, but he is a man trapped in the past. As one woman tells him, he lives in 'used-to-bes'. I felt for him at times but his choices in women were destructive and selfish. He's not an angry man though, he's more disappointed with himself than anything.
MacDonald writes lyrically of the beauty of Cape Breton Island and of the old Scottish settlers. He gives an accurate description of the nosy townspeople. Everyone in a small town thinks they know your business. However, I found the drinking to be an annoying stereotype. Yes, islanders like to drink but I think it was overkill.
All in all, it was difficult to get into, but by the end I was eager to keep reading.
Note: A minor detail pulled me right out of the story. A card game is mentioned Tarbash. It's Tarbish, not Tarbash. A little nit, but it bugged me.