A Hard Old Love Amongst Scavengers: A Novel

by David Doucette; pub­lished by This­tle­down Press (2016)

The Victoria Standard - - Arts - BON­NIE THOMP­SON

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.

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