SHOOT! by George Bowering


Email this review


 From the author of Caprice (1988), etc.: a historical, set in 1870s British Columbia, in which the moral authority of the victims is undermined by their own vicious behavior. Allen, Charlie, and Archie McLean--half-breed offspring of Donald McLean and his second Indian wife--have always been wild, with a taste for petty larceny and fighting. But they've never been murderers--and neither has their friend Alex Hare, another mixed- blood youth. Johnny Ussher, the constable of Kamloops and one of the story's few sympathetic characters, feels sorry for the McLean boys and Hare and recognizes the confusion of identity their mixed blood causes, as well as the frequent injustices that result. But Johnny hopes that maturity will calm the young men's rage and enable them to make their own place in Canadian society--hopes that are doomed when Annie, the McLeans' sister, gets pregnant by her white employer. The story, from this point, could have been a dramatically compelling one about the human cost of social injustice, except that Bowering's characters flatten out into cardboard: Annie becomes a metaphor for the white man's theft of the Indians' land; Allen McLean becomes less a man led by a spirit guide than a schizophrenic listening to the voice of madness; and the younger McLean boys dream of gaining notoriety as outlaws rather than as brothers united to avenge a sister's honor. When the McLeans and Hare murder Johnny Ussher and an innocent shepherd, they seem not men but robots, lacking remorse, passion, or personality. Even the standoff between the McLeans and the posse, along with the subsequent trial, fails--through having too little human investment--to hold much interest. Bowering beautifully evokes the hard winter landscape, but in a cut-and-paste narrative the characters mutate rather than evolve, and the story collapses under its weight of theme and symbol.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-312-14045-2
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1995