M. T. DOHANEY'S second novel, To Scatter Stones (Ragweed, 192 pages, $10.95 paper), is peopled with "characters" - strong and determined, quaint, cranky, homespun, even a little wicked and caked thickly with local colour and the sights, sounds, and smells of Newfoundland. Tessie Corrigan, the last surviving member of the clan whose story was chronicled in The Corrigan Women, Dohaney's first novel, returns from a failed marriage in Montreal to her home village in the outport of Cove. But returning is not easy, and in Tessie's case is complicated by her agreeing to stand as the conservative Cove's Liberal candidate in the upcoming provincial elections. A further complication is the unexpected re-entry into her life of Dennis, her first love.
Dohaney knows her Newfoundland well, and this familiarity is the strongest and most attractive part of what is otherwise quite an obvious, sometimes creaking, but always determined narrative. Dohaney is described as a teacher of technical writing, and her language seems correspondingly devoid of subtlety, energy, or originality. Applied to fiction it makes for a laboured and prosaic style that signals almost everything, from plot development to shades of character, as if the author doesn't trust the imagination or the intelligence of the reader.
However, the story rattles along at a good pace and doesn't lack structure, while enough flashes of genuine observation and characterization escape the iron hand of the technician to lift To Scatter Stones from the pot where it might, otherwise, boil. For those who care about the distinction, M.T. Dohaney's novel might be characterized as a good read, though not a good book. Maybe that's enough.