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Richards, David Adams.

Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, c1976, 1985. 278pp, paper, $4.95, ISBN 0-7710-9320-9. (New Canadian Library #184)

Reviewed by Jean Farquharson

Volume 13 Number 6
1985 November

Blood Ties, the third novel of New Brunswick author, David Adams Richards, evolves around the lives of the MacDurmots, a working-class family who live in a small New Brunswick town. Maufat, the father, is a railroad worker who slaves and sacrifices to provide for his family.

His wife, Irene, cares for and worries about her family, and nurses her mother, Annie, senile and helpless, who lives in her own home across the field. Orville, their one-eyed teenage son, self-conscious about his black patch, is reluctant to make friends or to believe in God. He is watched over by Cathy, the youngest daughter. Just finishing high school, she wants to find work out West, and she struggles not to make mistakes similar to those of her older sister, Leah. Married young and very unhappy, Leah constantly bickers with and threatens to abandon her husband, Cecil, who became embittered when badly scarred in an explosion that destroyed their store. Their small son, Ronnie, often bears the brunt of Cecil's temper.

The author has carefully woven the story together, telling it from the viewpoint of each of the family members, and using flashbacks to incidents that have affected them in some way. The reader must remain alert to identify the changes in viewpoint and relate to the incidents. The use of colloquial language laced with obscenities and profanities tends to become tedious, but vivid description provides a deeper look into the character of each family member. The tight bonds that hold them together give them strength to face life's problems and to understand what is important in life. This is challenging reading, but worth the effort.

Jean Farquharson, Brantford C.I. & V.S., Brantford, Ont.
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