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Strong Hollow

by Linda Little

At the age of 19, Jackson Bigney discovers his hard-drinking, unloving father dead in a ditch and barely says a word; not long after he builds himself a cabin out behind the family farm and dedicates himself to drinking and bootlegging. When Jackson emerges from his drunken haze one summer long enough to fall in love with Ian, a young fiddler, he awakens to the possibility, heretofore unexplored, of love. Ian abruptly ends the affair and leaves for Toronto, and Jackson, devastated with loss and the discovery of his homosexuality, turns to repairing a broken violin – eventually progressing to building instruments from scratch.

Strong Hollow, the debut novel from Nova Scotian writer Linda Little, bursts with characters, and Little wrangles them masterfully. The novel’s characters speak in the rough back-country cadences of the Maritimes and are toughened by the no-work, no-money, no-advantages limitations of rural Maritime life. Yes, these are “typical” Maritimers, but in Little’s care they transcend stereotypes even as they seem to embody them.

Still, there is a certain hollowness about the novel. As a writer, Little mistrusts the reader to understand the symbolism at the heart of her story, and consequently tells too much. In one scene, Jackson stuffs his belongings into plastic bags: “It was hopeless, of course. The secret cargoes were far too bulky. And what’s more, he couldn’t block the rising dread that this was only the beginning, that soon there would be bags and bags of things he couldn’t let out of his hands, leave unguarded. Soon he would be too weighed down to move.”

For all that, though, Strong Hollow is a debut worth noting. If Little can bring the intelligence of her dialogue to her narrative, she will be writer to watch indeed.


Reviewer: Stephanie Domet

Publisher: Goose Lane Editions


Price: $19.95

Page Count: 288 pp

Format: Paper

ISBN: 0-86492-308-2

Released: May

Issue Date: 2001-4

Categories: Fiction: Novels

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