I finished Andrew Daley's Tell Your Sister earlier this week but did not have a chance to write until now. Between work, visiting my parents new house outside of Parry Sound and a very serious phone conversation with my 5 year old niece about our favourite colours (hers - pink and purple, mine - blue), I just haven't had the time to blog.
I bought Tell Your Sister from the author at last fall's Small Press Book Fair. Obviously, buying it from the author predisposes me to liking the book. This inclination was tempered, however, by the fact that the 'Torontonian with a small town past' thing has been done so many times before that it has almost become cliche.
So, with one count for and one against, I dove in.
My verdict is that it is a very good novel, especially a very good first novel. Not great, but that's fine. It was more than good enough to ensure I will be buying his next book whenever it comes out.
The book tells the tale of two small town boys and the choices that can shatter or shape a life. While Dean and Aaron are both originally from the wrong side of the tracks, Dean's family moves on while Aaron's does not.
The novel is split into two strands. The first focuses on the year or so after Aaron drops out of school. Essentially abandoned by his father and stepmother, Aaron scrapes by, living in a rooming house and working at a bowling alley. He has an on again/off again relationship with Dean's sister that is shaped in no small part by the growing chasms of class and opportunity. The desperation of his situation forces Aaron to make some rash decisions with far reaching consequences.
The other strand occurs much later when the adult Dean happens to see one of Aaron's sisters at a downtown Toronto art opening. Very quickly, Dean is forced to face a) the departure of his long time girlfriend b) the fact that he can no longer work at a career (real estate) he has no interest in and c) the past that confronts him in the form of his one-time best friend's sister, reminding him of a bad choice he made.
The book moves and works well, building to an ending that is more satisfying than surprising. At times, Mr. Daley risked going too far. For instance, Dean's dazed ramble through the city near the end of the book had me worrying that the author was just dragging things along looking for an ending. Thankfully, he pulled it together in the end.
For my next book, I've decided to delve into some genre fiction. Hey, if it's good enough for Atwood, it should be good enough for me. Truth is, aside from some Philip K. Dick (which reads more and more like non-fiction the older I get) and Kurt Vonnegut, I have read very little sci-fi.
Considering the fact that one of the best living sci-fi writers lives probably less than a half hour from my apartment, this is a blind spot that needs correcting. As such, I'm currently reading Robert J. Sawyer's Golden Fleece. So far, it's pretty good.