Keeping Things Whole: A Review
*I received a stack of books from Nimbus Publishing to review. My friend Cheri Caplan (congratulations one becoming a fully fledged lawyer!) is an avid reader with a Masters in English, so I thought she’d be the perfect one to review this book. Here’s what she had to say!*
Keeping things full of the same old same old
I had a like-hate relationship with this book. Frankly, if I had come to this book on my own, I probably would not have finished reading it.
I’m happy to report that I was mostly wrong with this book. It has a good middle and a decent end.
The beginning suffers from too much cleverness. There is a plethora of sentences that are just so carefully crafted I could not get lost in the forest of the book because the trees were so darn painstaking. This is an odd criticism from me, because I love a finely wrought turn-of-phrase. Nonetheless, it is too much of a good thing. To wit:
“When I was two feet from her, a very lacquered stretch of bangs and nails walked her tan between us.”
“A decade after my McJob I also gladly buttoned up a valet’s vest at Casino Windsor. Uniform. One form. In uniform, the soldier is no longer an individual, but one spoke in a mighty wheel.”
“On the news, bus accidents and illnesses are inaccurately labelled “tragic.” Tragic=pitiable. And hero now generally means victim. Little Timmy fell down a well, so he’s a hero.”
I’ve left out the proliferation of cringe-worthy smutty and/or overly graphic rants.
The book is about a small potatoes weed peddler who graduates to the big-leagues first by building a trebuchet to launch bundles of marijuana across the river from Windsor into Detroit, and later by infiltrating a tourist hotspot. He’s also literally a product of both countries in that he was raised by a single mother who had been abandoned by her commitment-phobic draft-dodger boyfriend. Much of the book is dedicated to our hero pining after/searching for the father he never knew and the implications of their shared background: both historical and genetic. How inevitable is it that you become a smuggler if your grandparents were bootlegging rum-runners during Prohibition? Apparently genetics is destiny.
The sub-plot centres around a love affair with a woman who is impossibly out of his league. She is, however, seduced by his charm and his seemingly endless supply of cash. I suppose these two are metaphors for America and Canada, as could only be written by a Canadian. Canada is an earnest law student who is happy to live off the avails of crime, as long as it doesn’t sully her reputation. America is a schmoozing self-starter of a swindler who hits the road at the first sign of real commitment.
But I’m not giving much away because the very first page gives you enough to figure out that the entire book is meant be a letter-in-a-bottle to someone our hero has abandoned. Genetics is destiny, indeed. Like father, like son.
From its too obvious play on words title, to the depressing message of entitled, yet somehow noble, deadbeat dads, this book is a bit of a slog to get through. It did have some great bits in the middle, and many phrases, in isolation, are quite lovely.
If you’re interested in pondering the implications of living on a border town between two places that are economically, politically, legally, and even morally opposed, you might like this book. Or if you’re wondering whether a hand-dug tunnel under the Detroit river can last for decades after it was sealed off.
Here’s the synopis of the book from the website:
It’s 1998 and Antony Williams is about to meet his match. A native of Windsor, Ontario, Antony is the child of a demanding single mother and an absconding Vietnam War resister who got too used to leaving home, country, and family. With a keen eye on the hybrid Windsor-Detroit landscape, backhanded affection for his hometown, and a growing understanding of his own family’s place in its bootleg history, Antony makes his living as a house painter by day before catapulting loads of Canadian weed across the river to Detroit by night.
Then he meets Kate Chan, a beautiful, street-smart law student, who calls his bluff and picks apart his personal mythology. Ultimately she presents him with his own hard choice and forces him to realize he’s been smuggling much more than he knows. Keeping Things Whole recounts the arc of their relationship and is cut with Antony’s entertaining manifestoes on marijuana, legality, art, theatre, sex, money, and lineage.
With this, his second novel, Darryl Whetter gives us a maddeningly cocky but introspective hero, and his frank, nuanced portrait of a border city and its underground history.
Try it out for yourself! Win a copy of Keeping Things Whole by Darryl Whetter courtesy of Nimbus Publishing! Enter daily until June 20!