With his new novel, Penticton, B.C., writer and teacher Adam Lewis Schroeder breaks with his literary past – which includes novels like In the Fabled East, a finalist for the 2011 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize – in favour of something altogether, well, fleshier.
Peter Giller is a young widower in the American midwest, the father of two small children, and a substitute science teacher. On a field trip to a plastics factory, he and his students are sprayed with pink goo from a leaking pipe, following which they find themselves subject to flash tempers and superhuman strength. The fact that their body parts tend to fall off (they can be reattached, if they’re stapled back on in time) elicits comparisons to zombies, but Giller is quick to correct anyone who makes such a claim: zombies eat brains, whereas he and his students are afflicted with an insatiable taste for bacon.
Even from a brief description, one gets a sense of Schroeder’s tone in All-Day Breakfast: this is a zombie story with its tongue firmly in its cheek (body-part metaphors are irresistible). Even the protagonist’s name is playful: surely it’s not an accident that the main character in a deliberately non-literary novel from one of our great – though largely unrecognized – literary writers shares a name with our most prestigious literary prize.
It’s that chafing between literary and goofball genre tropes that gives All-Day Breakfast much of its zing, but even when deliberately avoiding the literary, Schroeder can’t seem to keep his impulses in check. All-Day Breakfast has the depth and care of a literary novel; while laudable, this is at odds with both the story and the requirements of the genre, which would benefit from a breezier, less calculated approach.
It seems odd to criticize a book for being too well-written, but that’s almost the case with All-Day Breakfast. Almost. Once the reader gets accustomed to the density of the novel, the rest is a pure, goofy joy.