We had our McBride Library Book Club meeting yesterday. The group was to all read something by Canadian authors. Here is a review of one book I read:
No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod (Nova Scotia)
After I started reading this novel that began with an orthodontist, visiting his aging alcoholic older brother in a poor Toronto rooming house, then leaving to buy more booze for his brother, I started to have doubts about just how much enjoyment I was going to get from reading this book.
But by the time I had finished reading, I was thoroughly impressed with the skills of the author, who had given me not only an intriguing story of a life, but also a group of characters, images, and incidents that I will long remember.
The storyline is made up of a series of glimpses of the dentist's life, occurring in roughly a chronological sequence, but also tells of his Scottish roots and the lives of his ancestors as they left their home to settle in Cape Breton generations ago. Even in the modern setting of the orthodontist's life, the pull of his Scottish heritage is strong and throughout his life, this heritage never lost its grip.
Having lost his parents and a brother at the age of three, when they fell through sea ice while walking to his grandparents' lighthouse, he and his twin sister were raised by his grandparents. After his parents' death, his brothers, who were older, lived an undisciplined life on their own in an old family house by the sea, fishing, then later hard-rock mining.
As a boy and young man, his life, shaped by the security of being cared for by his grandparents, was quite different from that of his wilder and hard-living older brothers, but he loved visiting and being with them, even to the extent of spending a summer doing underground mining with them, instead of taking an offered research lab job.
The novel is full of the quirky and unexpected incidences, that populate all lives. That and the realistic way the characters are sculpted, makes this work of fiction seem like a life story related honestly by a friend.
This was a novel about family, roots, and remembrances. It was a look back on a life, the lives of ancestors, and the ever-strong pull of a Scottish heritage. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel. It was very well written and totally touching and believable. It made me feel like I knew the people that inhabit this novel.