John Gillis finally has his act together, sort of. He's got a good job, a lady friend and his alcoholism under control. Then he runs into his long lost cousin Sextus, the author of a thinly disguised work of fiction about their family. John thinks he knows all there is to know about their ugly family secrets until a night of drinking with Sextus reveals the horrible truth.
First my list of grievances...
I spent the better part of the novel trying to keep everyone straight in my head. Here's the rundown:
Sandy is John's father. Jack is John's Uncle and Sextus's father. Jack was a miner. Angus is Effie and Duncan's father and 'like a brother' to Sandy. Sandy, Angus and a guy named Squint were in WW2 together. Effie marries John, then Sextus. Doesn't seem too complicated but the narrator, John, makes vague references to this person and that person and what they did... Oy.
Linden MacIntyre does 2 things that irk me. 1. Fragmented sentences. OMG. Every page. Every paragraph. Annoying. Follow me? Buy a pronoun. Now I'm not the Grammar Police by any means. I don't mind this little trick in small doses. It adds personality to the narrative, but being barraged by them constantly gave me a migraine. I had to keep reading what I already read to figure out who he was referring to.
2. Flashbacks. Again flashbacks aren't bad, but I found myself suddenly dumped into John's childhood, or adulthood or teen years. I felt out to sea.
Okay, enough complaints. I got over it. The story drew me in. John pussyfoots around this 'big secret' so often I read right to the end just to see how bad it was. I would have been pretty ticked if it turned out to be all a trick by MacIntrye. I was not disappointed.
It's really a story about fathers and sons. Sandy is a hard man who doesn't think John is hard enough. Bitter and resentful, John grows to hate his father. John's mother complains that Sandy went to war one person and came back another. Jack is different. John can talk to Jack, but Sextus is ashamed of his uneducated father. Effie ends up leaving both cousins because of their obsession with what really happened in that barn in Holland where Sandy was shot.
The people of the Long Stretch, an isolated piece of road in Inverness County, Nova Scotia, are a complicated lot, entangled in each other's lives by blood and experiences. Like people in small communities everywhere, everyone thinks they know what your problem is and what you should do about it. They have no idea just how deep the scars are here.
It's not a light happy story but I did enjoy it.
#2 The Canadian Book Challenge (Nova Scotia)