Patchily contrived tale about surviving abandonment, from Canadian novelist den Hartog (Water Wings, 2004, etc.).
In 1960, aspiring 16-year-old gymnast Kay Clancy of small-town Deep River, Ontario, trampolines into the arms of a tall transient, Joe LeBlanc. Their fatal romance ruins her chances for an Olympic career, even though Joe is not responsible for Kay’s pregnancy. She lets him think the father is high-school footballer Robbie Hayes, but actually it’s her well-off, married coach, Russell Halliwell, who wants nothing further to do with her. Admirably, Joe accepts baby Estelle, marries Kay and sticks around for a while; two other children, Louis and Margar, result. However, the convoluted drama of Estelle’s conception continues to fuel Joe’s anger and jealousy and he finally takes off for good. Youngest child Margar grows up catching only glimpses of Joe during his furtive nocturnal visits to the house. Coach Halliwell’s only son, Eddie, is also adrift, troubled by a traumatic early memory of overhearing Kay and his father discuss the pregnancy. Each chapter in this oddly structured work begins with a short description of the Olympic game concurrent to the family action, from Rome in 1960 to Moscow in 1980. An equally peculiar leitmotif is the romance of Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and his wife: Margar wishes she had been named after glamorous Margaret Trudeau instead of boring Saint Margaret. Den Hartog blankly juxtaposes private and Olympic events without providing a thematic context to pull them together, and her characters lack warmth or dimension. In the end, readers may feel—like Margar, who eventually takes down her pictures of the estranged Trudeaus—that they have made an emotional investment in people who weren’t really worth it.
Sketchy, toneless family drama in the Northern hinterland.