My editor emailed me just before the Halifax launch of Finton Moon, asking if I'd seen this review. It took me a couple of weeks, but I was finally able to read it yesterday morning. It's nice to see a review that's thoughtful and critical, not just plot summary.
Gothic novels set in Newfoundlandby Jean Graham, The Northeast Avalon Times, July 2012
I always wonder why there aren't more horror and/or fantasy novels set in Newfoundland and Labrador. Surely we have the weather, the landscape, the old graveyards, and the human characters to inspire more than our share of the gothic.
Look what Stephen King has done for Maine -- I've never been to that state, but I know if I ever drive through, my skin will crawl whether I'm in a rural area or Bangor/Derry.
This is not a complaint about what most of our authors do write about -- don't be writing to the editor to complain that I don't like your favourite artist-downtown or coming-of-age-in-the-bay or historical fiction tale. I probably do. I just would also, greedy soul that I am, like to see our genre fiction expand.
Every so often, someone here makes at stab at it, however, and for this month's column I have two books -- one outright horror, the other described on the jacket as a "gothic, adult fairytale." Each has been a decade in development, according to the author notes. Both maybe be perfect additions for your summer reading pile, depending on your literary tastes.
By Gerard Collins
330 Pages; $19.95
Finton Moon actually first emerged on the local literary scene as the 2001 winner of the Percy Janes First Novel Award. Eleven years later, it's here as an extraordinary addition to the scene.
It's a coming of age book, but one such as we've never seen here. Or perhaps anywhere -- books about children and adolesecents with unusual powers not being the norm these days. (And yes, I do remember the '70s -- but most of those kids were evil, possessed by demons, or both.)
The title character is a misfit in his family and his small bay town, Darwin. His father is called Tom, but I do not think that is an allusion to Stephen King's character Tom Moon in The Stand.
Finton has always healed quickly from injuries. Astonishing quickly, I mean -- minutes instead of weeks. Eventually, as a child, he discovers he can heal other people, which brings him instant notoriety in his town. The power disappears right after his first sexual experience, but show signs of re-emerging, if never quite as strong as it was originally.
A distant cousin is found dead. Tom is the suspect. there is secrecy and there are whispers. There is gossip and nastiness, both overt and covert.
Collins has created a town of characters that is both believable and memorable. You will recognize many of them -- Finton's hard-ticket best friend, his religious grandmother, supportive teachers and priests among them.
There is an unnattainable girl, and a girl who is a soulmate, but not recognized as such by Finton -- at least partly because she is from a family even lower on the town's social totem pole than his own.
The dialect never rings false, and the people Collins has created are not caricatures.
The book spans several years, and many of the central characters are children when it starts. The character development is clever -- they grow and develop and change, but none of them change in such a way as to become unrecognizable.
Eventually, the various strands of plot form a satisfying tapestry of a story. Every plot line has a conclusion -- many of them not exactly the ones you might expect, but none of them jarring with the story.
I read most of this book in one sitting of several hours, and would happily do so again. Collins has produced a razor-sharp portrait of much of what is worst and some of what is best) about small towns, thrown in a splash of fantasy and created a story that is well worth the decade or so we've been waiting for a finished product.
(Jean Graham goes on from here to review Charles O'Keefe's new novel, The Newfoundland Vampire.)