________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 15 . . . . March 31, 2006


Finnie Walsh.

Steven Galloway.
Vancouver, BC: Raincoast Books, 2000/2005.
165 pp., pbk., $18.95.
ISBN 1-55192-835-3.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.

Review by J. Lynn Fraser.

**** /4

Negotiating childhood with its attendant uncertainties and confusing interactions with adults and other children is difficult. Perhaps equally as difficult is capturing this realistically in print without seeming maudlin, sentimental or mistakenly giving a child an adult's perspective.

     Galloway takes readers through protagonist Paul Woodward's youth and into his young adulthood. Paul learns to negotiate friendships while experiencing the compromises of life and family. He will later reflect on the satisfactions and disappointments of adult life.

     The author also gives readers the view of those around him. In doing so, Galloway tells a tale with humour and great humanity. The book raises may social and family-dynamic issues, such as poverty, perceptions of disability and class prejudice which would lend themselves well to class discussions. Paul observes at one point:

     This was a familiar routine. I don't think my mother actually cared whether Louise and I swore a blue streak and I know that my father didn't….My mother made a fuss about us cursing because she thought that, as a mother, she ought to.

     Lest the reader think this book is overly serious, I should note that humour, both direct and observational, is pivotal in Finnie Walsh, such as:

     It was nearly Christmas before I could convince Finnie to come to my house again. He hadn't been there since the night of the accident, three months earlier. Finnie had great respect for my father. Unlike me, and nearly everyone else, he understood my father almost instantly. In some bizarre way, Finnie was envious of my family. We were, he imagined, normal. As I remember things, we were the furthest thing from normal, but there was not convincing him otherwise.

     The ongoing references to a thief of a prosthetic arm, as well as Wayne Gretzky and Pelle Lindbergh, will entertain male readers of the book. The prominence and strength of female characters, such as a younger sister with an ability to see the future, will engage young women who read the text.

     The author writes clearly and draws upon characters that come from a diversity of ethnic and economic backgrounds. I felt while reading this book that it was truly a Canadian book both in content and sensibility.

     I highly recommend this book for mature students. Some language and scenes are ‘adult.'

Highly Recommended.

Located in Toronto, ON, J. Lynn Fraser is a freelance writer and editor whose magazine articles appear in international publications.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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