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Avery, Martin.

Ottawa, Oberon Press, c1984. 86pp, paper, ISBN 0-88750-558-9 (cloth) $21.95, 0-88750-559-7 (paper) $11.95.

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Anne Locatelli

Volume 13 Number 3
1985 May

In this little collection of short stories that takes its title from the last and longest of the four, Avery places the action in his hometown territory, Gravenhurst, some one hundred miles from Toronto. For his first book, Cottage Gothic* also a short story collection, Martin Avery used the same background area and many of the same points of reference, e.g., Norman Bethune, rebellion, social justice, and quest for identity. The meaning of the title, Northern Comfort, remains a puzzle for the reader until explained towards the end of the book: "You know the feeling when you are there and not there at the same time?. . . It's like watching your own funeral, or seeing yourself on your deathbed. When we were punk kids we used to do all this heavy breathing and then have somebody squeeze you from behind. When you come to it's very weird. It's nice, in a dizzy way. Very dizzy. We called it Northern Comfort." The stories are sketchy and jumpy, leaving the reader uncertain and often confused as to what is taking place. The unfolding of the action tends to remind one of pieces of a puzzle, randomly scattered, brought together into a rational pattern only at the completion of the picture. The need to prepare for the millennium, the severity of nuclear threats in our world today, the description of life in a medium-security reform prison are tableaux presented in the stories, all containing thought-provoking issues. Brisk, stilted dialogue is often used for plot development; the impression left by the narrative is fleeting, shallow, and quickly dispersed. A sense of social satire and its own brand of humour may provide redeeming factors for this little collection that could be placed in the Canadiana section, for senior high school students, although some discretion should be used because of the language, which may at times be found objectionable.

Anne Locatelli, Elliot Lake S.S., Elliot Lake, Ont.

*Reviewed vol. X/4 November 1982 p.230.

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