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Thirteenth Issue
Volume 7, No. 1
 





features

O Mordecai, Where Art Thou?
By Juan Rodriguez


fiction

Quebecite: A Jazz Fantasia In Three Cantos
Reviewed by Kelly Murphy

A House By The Sea
Reviewed by Ian McGillis

The Speaking Cure
Reviewed by Mark Heffernan

The Applecross Spell
Reviewed by Eleni Zisimatos Auerbach

Universal Recipients
Reviewed by Eleni Zisimatos Auerbach

Black Bird
Reviewed by X.I. Selene

A Sunday At The Pool In Kigali
Reviewed by Edward R. Smith

Song For My Father
Reviewed by Mary Soderstrom

The Heart Is An Involuntary Muscle
Reviewed by Kim Bourgeois

Another Book About Another Broken Heart
Reviewed by Poppy Wilkinson

Without Cease The Earth Faintly Trembles
Reviewed by Jessica Ticktin


fiction at a glance

After All!
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Moosehead Anthology #9: Career Suicide! Contemporary Literary Humour
Reviewed by Ian McGillis


non-fiction

Respectable Burial: Montreal's Mount Royal Cemetery
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Shoshanna's Story: A Mother, A Daughter, And The Shadows Of History
Reviewed by Elizabeth Johnston

Louis Riel
Reviewed by Philip Hawes

Tables For One: A Spanish Journal
Reviewed by Sarah Rosenfeld

Practice Imperfect
Reviewed by Joan Eyolfson Cadham

Ha! A Self-murder Mystery
Reviewed by Anne Cimon

Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages
Reviewed by Jill Rollins


non-fiction at a glance

Womankind
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

A Love Of Reading: The Second Collection
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Entering The War Zone: A Mohawk Perspective On Resisting Invasions
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Drive I-95: Exit By Exit Info, Maps, History And Trivia
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Crooked Smile
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Four Hundred Brothers And Sisters
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

After Notman: Montreal Views - A Century Apart
Reviewed by Ian McGillis



poetry

Snow Formations
Reviewed by Bert Almon

In The Worshipful Company Of Skinners
Reviewed by Bert Almon

Bamboo Church
Reviewed by Bert Almon

An Abc Of Belly Work
Reviewed by Bert Almon




young readers

Emma's Story
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

The Mole Sisters And The Fairy Ring
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

The Mole Sisters And The Way Home
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Learning With Animals
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Sink Or Swim
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Suki's Kimono
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Peter's Pixie
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

A Friend For Sam
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Sam's First Halloween
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Tales Of Court And Castle
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Think For Yourself: A Kid's Guide To Solving Life's Dilemmas And Other Sticky Problems
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Nellie Mcclung: Voice For The Voiceless
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte




Song For My Father
By Miriam Packer
$15
paper 140 pp.
Guernica Editions 1-55071-173-3
fiction

Laying some ghosts

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New Document In Song for My Father Miriam Packer steps into some big footprints: those of Mordecai Richler and his early novels about Duddy Kravitz and his cronies.

Packer is at least a couple of decades younger than Richler, but she also knows this Montreal of the Main and triplexes on St. Urbain, of summer nights where not a breath of air reaches the back bedrooms, and of snowy afternoons when sunset comes far too early. She knows what it's like to be Jewish, and to be young and driven by sex. Just as importantly, she knows what it's like to hate your father.

Richler famously did not get on with his parents, and while his later work has several fathers who care a lot about their sons, in his early writing most fathers are fools. Packer's story is about how a woman starts out despising her father for the way he treated her mother, his lack of ambition, and his acceptance of being a downtrodden immigrant salesman. But by the end of the book she shows us the path to forgiveness, to love, to appreciation of what ordinary people can do when living in a very ordinary world.

Sarah, the narrator, begins with a dark November afternoon when she was eight. The new owner of the corner store, Hank Moore, offers to see her and her sister home from the piano teacher's house, but this gesture is subverted. In the hallway of their apartment building he offers them candies, as well as showing them a "bruised looking thing" that looks like the sausages hanging in grocery windows.

The girls scream. Then something "even more terrible" happens. They enter the kitchen of their flat to find their mother shouting at their father that she is going to change the locks on the door if he goes out that evening. Nevertheless he leaves, and the association of sex, shame, and insecurity dogs Sarah long after her mother has died, and until her father himself is dying.

Packer has Sarah tell her story in thirteen chapters, each broken up into small, intense, sometimes poetic episodes. Sarah's sexual encounters are particularly striking, which is fitting because sex is at the centre of the book. Not only does an uncle molest Sarah once her parents separate, but she uses her body to ensnare a young man so she can marry and get out of the house. She also craves the things that Cliff did to her in the darkness of the shed behind her childhood home - Cliff, who was black, and funny, and married already.

Packer almost falls into the trap of equating black men with dangerous sex - a black musician rapes Sarah and gets her pregnant - but she finishes her book with a picture out of an idyll where a black man and his black wife live in her family's old place. They are a kind, responsible couple with charming children, and don't hesitate to take in Sarah's father when, confused and ailing, he wanders back to the flat where he lived with his wife and daughters so long before.

That Packer invents characters like this is to her credit on a personal level, because she obviously has worked hard to make peace with ghosts that haunt a lot of people. Things are often not what they seem, she is saying. Richler probably would have agreed about that. His harsh eye saw deeply and he recorded things that few dared mention before. Therein lies his originality.

Packer is not original: in Song for My Father she is working in familiar territory. But what she sees and how she reports it in this short book are not without interest.

Mary Soderstrom is a Montreal writer of fiction and non-fiction whose short story collection The Truth Is (Oberon Press) takes place in Mile End, the Plateau, and Outremont.