canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999

The Desmond Road Book of the Dead
By Clare Latremouille
Chaudiere Books, 2006

Reviewed by Teri Marcotte

No light reading here as I begin this whirling dervish of a diary. Somehow, the reader blends into the author’s dream, becoming that brief lash flurry right before waking.

The writing has a curious style. Like single brushstrokes of paisley, Latremouille immerses you into her water-coloured stream of consciousness. The narrative involves three generations of women:

Grandmother Olive, born in 1901, the thirteenth child to poor farmers living in Manitoba.

“…everything touched by her soft gnarled hands…”

Her daughter Maggie died early, a victim of cancer.

“…the house holds stories, holds pictures…”

Granddaughter Shannon, story teller, has come to celebrate the lives of these women at the funeral of her grandmother, revisiting the home of the latter, hence the title. No huge revelations here. Women, who lived, endured and died. Peppered throughout: men are men, women are stronger.

In the dark with the fluorescent moon above, light-seeking insects are batting against dark glasses. Charles’ eyes closer and closer against my chair, my back against cold marble.

The world full of funerals
And the eyes of young men.

This is the day you did not have.

I do not know where it goes
where it goes
swaying my skin in the empty house
air dancing for me, hips swaying rhythmic,
how does this go,
how does this end

This is a story I will be writing twenty years into another life,
My skin folded around me like an old umbrella.

There are some flashes of brilliant writing here. However, I’m left with the sense that this is an oft told story: a forgettable tale in an overexposed, cryptic wasteland.

Just give me a story without exhaustive preamble, one that doesn’t caper and cavort into shadow. The story, that’s all I want.

Teri Marcotte is a writer who can often be found in cryptic wastelands murmuring inaudibly about “…the story, I just want the story…”





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