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by Kenneth J. Harvey

Kenneth J. Harvey writes in short, staccato sentences. Every word a jab. A knife. A fist. Verbal cuts. Makes Hemingway seem like a blabbermouth. The Newfoundland author’s latest novel follows 2003’s The Town That Forgot How to Breathe and focuses on Myrden, a man whose released from prison after 14 years after an apparent wrongful murder conviction.

Not surprisingly, Myrden’s having difficulty adjusting to life back in his rough St. John’s neighbourhood. Normal life is anything but normal to someone who’s just spent 14 years inside. Harvey masterfully creates tension between the daily routine of family life, however dysfunctional, and the bottled-up rage that Myrden feels toward that same routine and his inability and/or unwillingness to grasp it. Myrden is a thoughtful powderkeg who could go off over a glass of spilled milk, a presumptuous reporter, or nothing at all. There is a brooding, swirling feeling throughout the book that things could turn violent at any time. One beer. Six. Broken glass. Or he can shut it off. Shut it down.

People in town are ambivalent toward Myrden. If he didn’t kill that woman he was accused of, then who did? But he’s also coming into a lot of money, a cash settlement in exchange for the time he served. The system’s way of apologizing. His grasping wife wants her share. Others have plans for the cash, too, which creates a whole new set of problems for Myrden, whose paranoia is already all-consuming.

Myrden is tormented by the experience he has gone through – prison, the post-release media circus, newfound money – but the experience also gives him insight, and Harvey an opening, into a questioning of all we see and do: our niceties, routines, class distinctions. What is freedom? What is real? What lies behind the smile? Friendliness? Condescension? There is an insistent, angry edge here that is unsettling and yet exhilarating, perhaps because we have all felt it. Inside feels like 12 rounds in the ring. Readers will emerge battered, but somehow invigorated.


Reviewer: Stephen Knight

Publisher: Random House Canada


Price: $29.95

Page Count: pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 0-679-31427-X

Released: April

Issue Date: 2006-5

Categories: Children and YA Non-fiction, Fiction: Novels