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Doubting Yourself to the Bone

by Thomas Trofimuk

Doubting Yourself to the Bone, Thomas Trofimuk’s second novel (after his award-winning The 52nd Poem), follows main character Ronin Bruce through an eventful two years. Ronin is surprised when his partner, Moira, tells him she’s not happy and subsequently leaves him, taking their daughters with her. Rather than fret, Ronin goes on his own search for happiness in Paris.

While in Paris, Ronin begins an affair, then learns Moira has died in a car wreck and returns to care for his girls. What follows is a touching story of a widower piecing his life back together. Ronin struggles to accept Moira’s death, his guilt over not preventing it, and his guilt about his affair. Trofimuk throws a lot into his book – the doubt over the exact circumstances of the car crash, Ronin’s relationship with his ailing father, his move to a new town – and at times, some of the storylines appear momentarily forgotten, but the writer manages to create an overall balance that makes the story both emotionally rewarding and entertaining.

Until the monks show up.

While Doubting Yourself to the Bone is enjoyable throughout, the emergence of a contingent of Buddhist monks is a bewildering intrusion. Ronin’s daughter discovers them after their van breaks down, and soon the saffron-clad monks move into Ronin’s house. In a relatively sombre novel, the appearance of a possibly alcoholic monk and his baseball-playing brethren is a real strain on the tone. Fortunately, their stay doesn’t last long. And despite functioning mainly as a Three Stooges-style interlude, the monks do help Ronin reach a zenlike understanding and acceptance of his losses.