A Hard Old Love Amongst Scavengers: A Novel
by David Doucette; published by Thistledown Press (2016)
Going deep into the heart of what it means to be a loner, David Doucette’s newest novel is a superb portrait of the ambivalent nature of solitude.
Readers with loner tendencies can breathe a sigh of relief as Doucette unveils the stumbling emotions, crazy deep love of nature, and quiet sense of accomplishment his protagonist experiences at each small triumph over challenges, or mere endurance of what he cannot change. More sociable readers will discover some of the strength, confusion, and patience of people who don’t find it easy to be “out there” in the world of human interaction.
Episodically, this is one adventure per chapter—some small, some big, all realistic. (Maybe the coyote incident is more realism than we want in our woods-wandering minds!) Nature looms large, as Miles Macpherson’s self-built home sits high on a Cape Smokey cliff, and all manner of weather and beasts move through his life. His interactions with moose, squirrels, crows, coyotes, and an endearing red fox he names Charlie are anything but starry-eyed. Miles’s reactions to animals and humans alike are driven by a hunt for the best in each creature, with a proper sense of caution and distance.
The neighbours within range come off rather well in the tug of war between curiosity, irritation, and compassion that is inevitably engendered by the presence of one of their own who has traveled the world, challenged the too-tight bonds of community, and kept them off balance with his incapacity to be “normal.” Doucette’s writing is sympathetic to these tensions, and it’s a delight that he does not fall back on an easy portrayal of bullying and ostracism that some writers might imagine. Dave Doucette knows his people.
His writing is not always the shortest route between two periods. And he is often poorly served by his editors. But his quirks of phrase are important, subtly communicating humour, fear, relief, uncertainty, and a sharp understanding of human relationship. There is love here, and courage, and despair—all of it at just the level we can recognize in our own lives.
Tempered by his Ingonish upbringing and his experiences in some of the farthest reaches of our world, Dave Doucette’s writing—see also North of Smokey and Strong at the Broken Places—excels at portraying the tension between individual privacy and the web of connection in rural living.
Read this book, and feel your heart crack open to the roots of difference, and to the amazing flexibility we can all dredge up in our attempts to live in community.