Man’s trip with a bro­ken heart

The Hamilton Spectator - - BOOKS - TARA HEN­LEY Tara Hen­ley is a writer and ra­dio pro­ducer. Spe­cial to the Star

In the years since “Eat, Pray, Love” ex­ploded onto the lit­er­ary scene, mem­oirs chron­i­cling women’s heart­sick pilgrimages to ro­man­tic cities have flooded the mar­ket. But we hardly ever hear from male writ­ers in the same sit­u­a­tion. Un­til now, that is. In­trepid Calgary au­thor Glenn Dixon’s lat­est trav­el­ogue “Juliet’s An­swer: One Man’s Search for Love and the Elu­sive Cure for Heart­break” is note­wor­thy for its fresh take on this pop­u­lar premise, but also for its can­dour and vul­ner­a­bil­ity.

In this book, his third work of non-fic­tion, we find the for­mer Grade 10 English teacher try­ing to make sense of an un­re­quited love that he’s strug­gled with for decades. Lost and alone, and un­sure how to pro­ceed in life, he turns to Shake­speare’s Romeo and Juliet — which he teaches to his stu­dents — and to the ro­mance cap­i­tal Vero- na, where the epic tale is set.

Will this work of art, and this an­cient city, give him the sense of di­rec­tion he so des­per­ately needs?

Dixon de­cides to find out. He ven­tures across the ocean to the sto­ried Ital­ian spot, where he vol- un­teers for the Juliet Club (Club di Gi­uli­etta), a lo­cal com­mu­nity group that an­swer the daily del­uge of let­ters from bro­ken-hearted peo­ple around the world seek­ing ad­vice from Juliet.

Span­ning two trips, Dixon’s sto- ry un­folds against a stun­ning back­drop of his­tory, ar­chi­tec­ture, lit­er­a­ture, opera and, of course, gelato. In learn­ing about the ageold text and its mag­i­cal set­ting, Dixon learns about the hu­man con­di­tion and, ul­ti­mately, about his own heart.

Juliet’s An­swer is a well-crafted, vis­ually de­scrip­tive, aptly-re­searched mem­oir about love and loss. But its last­ing im­pact will likely not be in the chick lit or trav­el­ogue gen­res it be­longs to, but in the wider so­ci­etal project of ex­pand­ing our un­der­stand­ing of mas­culin­ity. “Juliet’s An­swer” gen­tly smashes the stereo­type of the stoic man and brings male suf­fer­ing over af­fairs of the heart into fo­cus.

That the book is able to do this while still be­ing a light and easy read is its chief strength.

SI­MON AND SCHUS­TER

“Juliet’s An­swer,” by Glenn Dixon, Si­mon & Schus­ter, 272 pages, $25.

ANDREW FRANCIS WAL­LACE/TORONTO STAR

Glenn Dixon, au­thor of “Juliet’s An­swer.”

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