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In the Hands of Anubis

by Ann Eriksson

The people we meet while travelling often have an enormous effect on our lives. Ann Eriksson’s second novel, In the Hands of Anubis, testifies to this fact. Travelling to Africa, Calgarian Trevor Wallace encounters Constance Ebenezer, an eccentric, gutsy, adventurous septuagenarian who forces him into a series of bizarre adventures in Cairo. When Trevor returns to Calgary, his interaction with the older woman prompts him to embark on a lengthy journey of self-discovery, during which he is forced to confront his traumatic childhood and empty present.

Victoria-based author Eriksson skillfully captures a young man’s loneliness and angst. The characters are compelling, realistically drawn, and three-dimensional. Trevor and Angela, casual lovers prior to the former’s life-altering trip, negotiate a deepening connection, and when Angela brings Trevor home to her family’s farm, he is able to reconnect with his own past through interactions with her family, especially her ill brother, Bjorn.

Eriksson’s depiction of family farming and family farm dynamics is vibrant and accurate. The relationships are intriguing enough to keep a reader interested, and the contrasts between the book’s two settings work well. The decision to set the story in the 1980s, well before the age of computers and more regulated air travel, allows for some plot devices that would be harder to pull off in a contemporary story. However, the novel still suffers from plot contrivances that may cause readers to question the characters’ actions. A fight between Trevor and Angela reads as particularly implausible.

Despite this, the book does linger in the mind, and the fine depiction of prairie farm life is worth savouring.