Quill and Quire

REVIEWS

« Back to
Book Reviews

The Good Body

by Bill Gaston

Bob “Loose” Bonaduce returns to Fredericton, New Brunswick, to play on the same hockey team as his son, whom he abandoned 20 years ago.

Loose, 40, is spurred on by his multiple sclerosis, which may be slowly killing him. He has spent half of his life in the U.S. in the International Hockey League, “the next-to-big league” but a long skate from The Show. In fact, his only NHL experience was a 40- to 50-second shift, with two minutes to go, in an insignificant game.

His time in the minors, “staring a life’s failure in the face,” parallels his lack of success off the ice, where he attempts to “play life like the game it is” but with the same sad results.

Bonaduce enrolls at the local university, submitting 28 pages of other peoples’ poems with two of his own so that he can take creative writing classes and play university hockey with his son. But he’s one of those guys who doesn’t belong anywhere, a man perpetually in limbo.

Bill Gaston, author of three novels, three collections of short stories, two plays, and a book of poetry, perfectly captures the smells of the hockey game. His descriptions of “water-melt on wood or rubber,” ammonia, and the after-stink of the players are all spot on.

There’s some good writing about a Bob Dylan concert, but the author is at his best here when describing the game, “the body seen as pure desire, the puck a chunk of dumb rubber the perfect symbol of worthlessness … so abstract, so pure in its meaninglessness it is almost Japanese.”

Gaston’s got the goods and he’s been there: you can’t imagine something as real as this.