CANARY RED by Robert McKay


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Three-hundred twelve canaries: that's what Ming's father, Mase Campbell, brings home, after fifteen years in the pen. Is he cuckoo? Or is he about to pull some semantic-symbolic ""sing-like-a-canary"" stunt and squeal on that never-identified partner who got away. The Birdman of the Florida State Penitentiary, he has hatched and bred red canaries (the bird fancier's white marigold) and seems ready for fame and (good) fortune when a fire in the barn (probably Uncle George) almost destroys the entire lot. Ming is glad that he no longer treats her like ""a state senator's daughter on a visit,"" and the fifteen-year-old begins to see clay feet on George, and Aunt Sara, and maybe even on (thirtyish-spinsterish) teacher Libby Dean. Confronted with (realistically) obtuse and prodding and well-meaning neighbors, Mase almost loses control but the sheriff knows what's happening and makes Mase his deputy and Dad is more surprised than the rest of Blairsville. Only the reader knows the ulcerous misgivings and humbling whereabouts of Fred Sander who let his buddy get arrested. It all comes out at the National Bird Show in Chicago: recognition of a breeder's triumph: the guilt-ridden Sander: a daughter's staunch support: clearance for a Dad-and-Libby Dean future. A touchy situation presented with humor and realism (by an omniscient narrator), a bit top neat at the end. The never-stated but relevant parallels of bred and in-bred behavior (heredity vs. environment) give it a second meaning.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1968
Publisher: Meredith