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Quite self-consciously literary but often effective, moody, and sometimes moving: a coming-of-age/loss-of-innocence tale set largely on the Canadian-American border. Somber and elegiac to a point approaching threnody, Canadian Marshall (Adele at the End of the Day, 1988; not reviewed) uses a variety of forms--first and third person and epistolary narration; dramatic monologues--to convey the lives of four Canadian friends, all somehow living in relation to the looming presence of the States, its promise of freedom and danger. Teens Ron, Steve, and Carl travel to Buffalo looking for excitement. In a gay bar, Larry, an old school friend, long-vanished in scandal, shows up and introduces them to Lisan--the beautiful, crazy sister of Angelo, his mob-connected lover. Ron, returning for a date with Lisan, is on the scene when Angelo's body is discovered, and Larry, gone again, is suspect. Both working in tourism at Niagara Falls, Ron falls in love with Lisan. Carl, the crowd's rich kid, visits home from college in California and takes Lisan with him when he returns to school. Eventually a borderline schizophrenic, Ron never gets over her and, after she kills herself, travels to California to confront Carl. He discovers that Carl is now a junkie, crushed by Lisan, manipulated by Larry into dependency. Carl overdoses, and Ron returns home. Later, after the death of his father--from exposure to chemicals at the American plant where many of the townspeople work?--Rows mother remarries Steve's father, and we see Steve, who never left, living a dull but satisfying life. For all its tragedy and looming symbols, a mundane and somehow familiar tale, interesting chiefly for Marshall's flashes of genuine poetic grace.

Pub Date: Sept. 2nd, 1989
Publisher: Faber & Faber