Saturday, April 21, 2012

Staff Pick - Glass Boys by Nicole Lundrigan

Nicole Lundrigan's moving and character-driven family saga Glass Boys (M) is set in the fictional Newfoundland community Knife's Point and explores the tragedies that can be passed down from generation to generation.

The Trench Brothers, Roy and Lewis, in a drunken state, interrupt a scene between Eli Fagan and his stepson Garrett Glass, so intense and private, that a struggle ensues and Roy is killed. Was he murdered or was it an accident? Lewis believes it was murder, but the courts disagree and the families descend into a hate-filled feud that is to silently pass from generation to generation. In an attempt to build a happy life, Lewis courts and marries Wilda, but his desire for a picture perfect family life blinds him to the tragedy that made Wilda the woman she is. Wilda was unloved by her own mother and was unable to accept the adoration and intense devotion of her eldest son Melvin. Eventually to escape suffocation, Wilda abandons her two sons, Melvin and Toby, causing history to repeat itself as Melvin, a once precocious and happy child, withdraws from his life and loses the strength to cope with tragedy.

Glass Boys contains a sea of damaged characters, however there is a thread of hopefulness and humanity that keeps the sadness and seriousness from overwhelming the story. Wilda is damaged. Melvin is damaged. Garrett is certainly damaged and his story is the most difficult of all to digest. In Garrett we see the early development of a pedophile, and while is this is disturbing and hard to stomach, it is difficult to merely dismiss him as a monster. Lundrigan has created a cast of  layered characters so complex that it is impossible to label them as merely evil or good. Those threads of hopefulness and humanity are personified by Toby, too young to be as damaged as Melvin by his mother's desertion, and by the lovely Mrs Verge. Mrs. Verge remains grateful to Lewis for saving her son and offers the Trench boys warmth and maternal affection.

This is a thought-provoking novel that I can see being enjoyed and discussed by book groups. The writing is spare and events move along at a fast pace. The action is immediate and it takes no time at all to be drawn into the story. One reviewer referred to this novel as humorous, but I'm not sure I can see that - hopeful, yes, and ultimately positive.

It reminds me in a way of books by Donna Morrissey, perhaps especially the atmospheric and character-rich Kit's Law (M). "Kit’s Law is a stunning debut written with the stark rawness of character and landscape of the Rock itself. It evokes the lyrical gifts of E. Annie Proulx, the emotional power of Wally Lamb, and the compelling storytelling of Ann-Marie MacDonald. At its centre is the innocence and determination of Kit herself, a young woman who experiences extremes of pain on the way to redemption. As she says: “It is better to sense nothing at all, to move through the world and glimpse it from a distance, then to split God’s gift in half and live in its underside, with no rays of light dispersing the darkness.”" publisher

1 comment:

  1. I picked up this book to read, mainly because it was a Canadian author and the book was set in Newfoundland. I loved it! Great writing, vivid imagery and memorable characters.