I have got to stop believing the hype around anyone declared Canada’s next big author. I just have to stop doing that for like, my mental health. CanLit is so desperate to have a big thing like Atwood again that they will throw that title around like a stick for a dog, and I, ever the faithful hound, will chase after it. But it’s a stick, not a rabbit, and a stick is ultimately wooden, predictable and boring; like this fucking book.
Where do I start? How about with the fact that the goddamn back cover blurb gives away the twist. You keep thinking the twist is not the twist you think it is because how could that be the twist when you already know it, but no, THAT THING THAT YOU THINK IS THE TWIST REALLY IS THE DAMN TWIST. And okay, I can handle having a twist signaled and revealed early on, but the rest of the book has to be good at what it’s doing, it has to make me like some of the characters, it has to have substance- of which there is so little here. Every painstaking thought and action of our protagonist, Junior, is put out with the kind of mundane attention to detail that makes you go “holy shit farms are dull”. It was such a frustrating thing to read because every time I thought something interesting was picking up, Reid just stopped doing it. What’s with the beetles? Oh, never mind, you get to suffer through another 50 pages of Junior talking about walking around his house before we return to them. Then an enemy is presented as a replacement for Junior and it is so painfully, brutally obvious that this is a red herring and so you want to smack Reid for thinking you are stupid enough to fall for that but he actually keeps going with it and now you have to deal with that as the narrative drive. He must think I’m an idiot to believe his so-called misdirection. This is some M. Night bullshit.
The wife of Junior, Hen, seems to be going through a much more interesting moral dilemma and is conflicted and in pain, but do we get a real sense of her? Nope! Just an idealized obsession with her that does at least come back in a satisfying way at the end. But seriously, why would you create an interesting character like Hen, but tell the book only from the perspective of the boring male, and then make the whole thing about how men idealize women and in the process minimize their own complex humanity? Why couldn’t Reid have switched perspectives between Junior and Hen, since he gives away his own not-so-clever twist so fucking early, so that we can be in on her emotional conflict and maybe, just maybe, spend some time with a character who is fully developed?
It’s not a terrible premise, but it is unforgivably lazy.
I finished the book out of spite. What makes me more spiteful is that I totally get Hen and what she’s about and what she felt in her relationship and I relate to it and I wanted that story, not the cheap one I got. Seriously, fuck this book. Fucking CanLit…