Even after the prison doors have opened, family cycles of violence and revenge can keep a man in chains.
In this tense and unrelenting first-person narrative, Canadian author Harvey (The Town That Forgot How to Breath, 2005, etc.) gives us Myrden (no first name) just as he is released from prison after serving 14 years for murder. DNA evidence has overturned his conviction, but the world he returns to regards him alternately as a martyr “innocent as a lamb” and as a killer who got out on a technicality. Myrden himself cannot share the truth of the crime, which he remembers only as part of a drunken spree. Signs point to one of his younger cronies, Willis, who now denies he was there the night Myrden’s girlfriend, Doreen Stagg, was killed. But violence and sexual jealousy run through Myrden’s crew like booze. His best pal Randy puts two men in a coma with his fists. His son Bobby has already been in and out of jail before meeting a violent end, and Myrden himself wakes up from his own welcome-home party to find “knuckles covered in dark, dried blood. Stains and fresh scabs.” Only by deduction does he piece together his beating of his wife’s new boyfriend during the previous night’s alcoholic blackout. Slowly re-entering the free world, Myrden finds reason to continue through his love for his granddaughter Caroline and a wounded former girlfriend, Ruth. When the settlement for his wrongful imprisonment comes through, Myrden glimpses a better possible future, particularly for his daughter Jackie and for granddaughter Caroline: “Buy them better lives.” He even takes a vacation with Ruth, who shows him how life could be. But when Myrden and Ruth return, the doting family man finds himself drawn back in by violence to the perhaps inevitable conclusion that Harvey has hinted at with chilling precision.
This moody, brooding portrait will leave readers chilled and profoundly moved.