THE GOOD BODY by Bill Gaston


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An immensely likable first US appearance for Canadian poet and novelist Gaston, who brings to engaging life the black-comic trials and tribulations of a former semipro hockey player contending with multiple sclerosis and (though he'd never call it this) separation anxiety.

Out of hockey at 40 and very much deserving his nickname, Bob "Loose" Bonaduce impulsively enrolls at the University of New Brunswick, planning to earn a master's degree in English (he's formally educated and a sometime poet) while reuniting with (and perhaps playing collegiate hockey alongside) his son, Jason. Gaston gives his narrator Bob an agreeable, attractive voice—wry, witty, and not about to be easily impressed—by the hilariously described graduate seminars he attends, the passel of much younger housemates he cohabits with, or the enervating disease that's slowly stalking him. The novel commands a broad range of scenes and effects. Brief flashbacks and terse excerpts from Bob's writing exercises (which rudely fictionalize the lives of various friends and acquaintances) mix seamlessly with the more extensive present action: Bob's hesitant overtures toward both Jason and his mother, Leah, whom Bob abandoned but never divorced; and his bonding with Leah's new mate, Oscar, a beautifully realized secondary character. Even better drawn is Bob himself, fully rounded and most appealing with his rugged fatalism, rough-hewn wit, and genuine love for the boy he walked away from. Jason is, Bob well knows, his best reason for fighting in the creases with MS: "because of this son's existence, life would never be empty." A few rock-music references and bar-hopping bits seem pretty generic, and the closing pages do not refrain from jerking a few tears, but, hey, if you liked the film Breaking Away, let's say, there's no reason to resist the many charms of Good Body.

Yet another good novel from Up North. Canadian fiction is more than coming into its own; it may be the wave of the immediate fictional future.

Pub Date: Feb. 12th, 2001
ISBN: 0-06-039411-0
Page count: 288pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2001


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