Author: Brian Fawcett
Reviewed by: Andrew Brobyn
Publisher: Cormorant Books
Price: $21.95 TP w/flaps
Page count: 285 pp.
Size: 5¼ x 8
Released: Sept. 2013
To those unaccustomed with the game of hockey, watching a seasoned and gifted player in action may spark the innocent thought, “Hey, I could do that!” Several broken bones later a revised deduction occurs: that player has spent years honing a natural talent, acquiring and perfecting vital skills, and studying every facet of a sport in which they—quite literally—do battle on ice while walking on knives. Reading Brian Fawcett’s latest work of fiction, The Last of the Lumbermen, has a similarly humbling effect.
Having already proven himself a gifted writer at the top of his game, with several lifetimes’ worth of publications spanning poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction, Fawcett now, in what is arguably his first novel, deftly provides an extended glimpse into his imagination, interests, and ideas.
Lumbermen flows in a spare, reflective prose that guarantees prolonged periods of enjoyment; but don’t let its ease of reading fool you—there are profound insights lying in wait. These kernels of wisdom are carefully woven into the intertwined narratives of a town, a man, and a hockey team struggling with, and for, their respective identities.
Lumbermen’s protagonist, Andy Bathgate, believes himself to be a criminal fugitive from his irresponsible past. Blaming himself for the tragic, alcohol-related bus accident that killed several friends and former teammates, he attempts to flee culpability under cover of a new name, eventually finding himself—after extensive wanderings—in a place not far removed from the one he escaped: his guilt, however, follows him everywhere. In the fictional B.C. community of Mantua (itself mired in an existential crisis and threatened by the encroaching, impersonal machinery of capitalism) Andy had hoped to begin life anew, quietly passing his time with a loving girlfriend, her hostile son, and a senior’s league hockey team perpetually doomed to last place. Andy, though, is unaware that his true self was right there all along.
In moments of grace and courage, mingled with scenes of palpable terror and desperation, Andy’s story unfolds in his own words, revealing a family lost in his secrets, friends he can truly believe in, and a future that—will be left to the reading!