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Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada
My virtue is that I say what I think, my vice that what I think doesn't amount to much.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

The Age of Longing

I bought this book thinking it was a newer Richard Wright novel. It was actually written in 1995, pre Clara Callan, his Giller and GG award winning novel. Wright is a local author who lives just down the road in St. Catharines and did the bookclub to which I belonged the honour of attending one of our meetings. Wright talked about his craft in a very informal setting and I was charmed by his sweet manner. The Age of Longing like Clara Callan captures old-time, small town Ontario like an insect trapped in amber. It is a sad novel, spanning three generations. Howard Wheeler, a book editor, suffers a heart attack just as his mother dies at the family home in Huron Falls, Ontario. He misses the funeral but returns to settle her estate. The novel flips from past to present and back again. Howard's parents' marriage is the focus of the novel, a mismatch if ever there was one. His dad, Buddy Wheeler, was a hard drinking, small town hockey player who almost makes it to the big leagues. His mother, Grace, is an independent thinking school teacher who holds a strong disdain for games and the men who play them. She is prim to the extreme. Buddy is irresponsible and fun loving. Wright somehow makes us believe that these two polar opposites could have wed and mated. Howard, the product of that unlikely union, spends the novel searching for meaning in that history. It's an elegant, old fashioned book and I loved it.
I find it curious that I have chosen to read three books in a row that address the search for emotional inheritance in small town family history. Must be a stage I'm going through.

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