THE TOWN THAT FORGOT HOW TO BREATHE by Kenneth J. Harvey

THE TOWN THAT FORGOT HOW TO BREATHE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Canadian author Harvey’s first U.S. publication is a messy disaster novel.

Bareneed is a small, pretty Newfoundland fishing town. Its inhabitants are on the cusp of a mysterious sickness. Gusts of anger will come first, then shortness of breath, and then death, unless the patient is hooked up to a respirator, fast. The first Bareneed native we meet is Miss Laracy, an old woman who used to have contact with fairies (or spirits). Don’t dismiss her as a dingbat: Spirits have power in this yarn. She greets two new arrivals, Joseph Blackwood and small daughter Robin, summer renters. Joseph, a townie, is the closest we have to a protagonist, but no paragon; this thoroughly decent dad will turn nasty as the sickness reaches him. Their neighbor is Claudia, a potter, whose husband and daughter Jessica disappeared 18 months before. Or did they? Jessica, a drowning victim, is still out and about, a malevolent playmate for Robin. Meanwhile folks have started dying, and amiable old Doc Thompson is being run ragged making house calls. And then there’s the sea! It’s disgorging bodies from different time periods reaching back to the 18th century, though none of them decomposed. Confused yet? Harvey’s lack of focus is his most obvious weakness as he moves between the Blackwoods and Claudia, the hospital, the army personnel now established dockside and a slew of minor characters; his obsession is regurgitation, as fish throw up human heads. To top it all off, a tsunami is approaching. Are the spirits causing it? That’s one of those chicken-or-egg conundrums. All we can say for sure is that, obligingly, it will spare the Blackwoods. We never do learn the cause of that strange sickness.

Harvey appears to lose interest in his own premise, and no wonder; the secrets of the deep are far more sexy than patients on respirators.

Pub Date: Oct. 18th, 2005
ISBN: 0-312-34222-5
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2005