JAKE MACDONALD's Raised by the River (Turnstone, 275 pages, $14.95 paper) can't make up its mind whether it's a screwball comedy, a modern romance, or a serious novel about self-discovery. Thus it winds up being an unsatisfactory blend of all three.
The story centres around Mike Saunders, a 40 year-old yuppie who runs a Toronto consulting firm with his old college buddy. After the death of his father, Saunders inherits the ramshackle family inn up north in Minaki. Since the inn was his boyhood home, Saunders is faced with a momentous decision: should he sell it, fix it up, or raze it to the ground?
Coping with the inn and its associated financial problems brings on an identity crisis. Bored and restless with his job in the city, Saunders further complicates his life by falling for the town's mayor-cum-handywoman, a smart cookie named Maggie. Since she's as bright and competent as Saunders is indecisive and inept, they team up to renovate the inn and restore it to its former glory.
While there are moments of charm and humour, the characterizations remain sketchy. A few descriptions linger in the memory; for instance, Saunders's buddy Skip is found to have "the personality of a game-show host." But a meandering subplot that concerns gangsters, a beautiful girl, and some shady business dealings adds little of substance to an already dragging story-line. Though MacDonald writes splendidly about the wilderness country of northwest Ontario, his book is at best only mildly entertaining.