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Right Away Monday

by Joel Thomas Hynes

Clayton Reid, the booze-besotted, drug-addicted ne’er-do-well at the centre of Joel Thomas Hynes’s second novel, bears a striking resemblance to Keith Kavanagh, the shiftless antihero of Down to the Dirt, Hynes’s 2004 debut. Both are selfish, self-destructive young men who use alcohol, drugs, and casual sex as a means of keeping the harshness of the world at bay, and both find their lives of reckless excess called into question by the appearance of a strong woman.

For Clayton, that woman is Isadora, a would-be actress who he feels could be “that someone who’s out there somewhere who’s gonna make it through with me and point me heart in the right direction, rid me of this coldbloodedness I cant seem to shake no more.” But like Keith, who makes a cameo appearance in the new novel, Clayton is unable to face up to his responsibilities, preferring instead the oblivion found at the bottom of a bottle: “Figure it all out again tomorrow. Let meself fall today.”

Right Away Monday is in many ways an expansion of Hynes’s earlier book; it tackles many of the same themes and revisits the same milieu, but it is generally deeper and more thoughtful in its treatment of its characters and their ambiguities. Hynes has also developed a more cohesive structure for his new book, whereas the earlier novel often felt more like a series of discrete stories than a fully unified novel.

Where Right Away Monday stumbles is in those sections narrated by characters other than Clayton: his musician brother, Val, for example, or – especially – the bartender Monica, whose narration is meant to reflect the rhythms of a particular Newfoundland dialect, but comes off as visually choppy to the point of being virtually unreadable: “Imagine me h’off ’ome just so’s ’e can ’ave one last gawk at me afore ’e croaks.”

Right Away Monday is a flawed but frequently compelling novel that shows Hynes evolving as a writer, refining his style and perfecting his voice.