Some Extremely Boring Drives
By Marguerite Pigeon
NeWest, 228 pages, $19.95
To use "boring" in a book title takes confidence, to add "extremely" may seem brash, but Marguerite Pigeon deserves to be cocky in naming her first collection of stories. The biggest strike against story collections is they can lack coherence; the reader might ask, "Why publish a collection at all?" Not so with this well-honed book of thematically linked tales. The women and men here are all at least momentary travelers but ones uninterested in their journeys: a reluctant frequent flyer takes yet another business trip, an ultra-endurance athlete falls into the trance of the trail. These are not travelogues; we receive relatively little description of scenery. What is interesting is that in their disinterest each character also reveals a psychological vulnerability that makes him or her susceptible to reinvention. Pigeon provides enough diversity of character and situation to avoid feeling formulaic. Not boring at all.
By Frank Christopher Busch
Roseway, 328 pages, $20.95
Frank Christopher Busch wrote Grey Eyes, his debut novel, in response to what he heard repeatedly in his interviews with indigenous survivors of Canada's residential schools: "I just want my culture back." His story opens with the rare birth of a Grey-Eyed boy in the Nehiyawak village of Nisichawayasihk (situated in what is today Northern Manitoba). The Nehiyawak celebrate the birth, as a person with grey eyes will possess Grey-Eyed magic and will protect the village from the sinister Red-Eyes. The prose style is plain and simple and one wonders about the historical accuracy of the dialogue, but neither of these is a great drawback in what is at once an intricate portrait of pre-contact life and a suspenseful page-turner that builds towards a dramatic and moving finish. As a novel it is a success – one that may benefit, and certainly entertain, indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians both.
By Angie Abdou
Arsenal, 312 pages, $18.95
Western families who hire foreign nannies help these women to better lives they could not attain in their home countries – or so one argument goes. Angie Abdou's latest novel teases the question of who helps whom in this arrangement by looking at it from both sides. Vero is a 42-year-old mother of two young boys who is quickly losing her identity and her sanity. When motherhood frays her nerves to their last thread, her husband convinces her to hire a live-in, Filipino nanny, Ligaya. Vero's life in her ski-resort town is undeniably privileged. Compared to Ligaya's, hers are first-world problems. They are, however, also common and real, partly the result of an unequal childrearing burden, and Vero is self-aware enough to be uneasy with the obvious power imbalance between her and her domestic helper.
Betweenasks nuanced questions of and avoids pat answers on a thorny dilemma facing many families today.