The Second Season of Jonas MacPherson|
by Lesley Choyce,
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|The Rhythms Of Nature
by Dayv James-French
AT THE AGE of 69, Jonas MacPherson sees himself in the exact middle of his life: his past stretches behind him into infinity, his future will last for eternity. What constitutes his "second season" whether it`s the act of reflection that dominates the novel, or the preparation for a next incarnation that he approaches with little fear but some caution, or even the new beginning he`s forced to make after the death of his beloved wife, Eleanor -- is never conclusively spelled out, although the theme of temporality is
evidenced by the cycle of the calendar year in the arrangement of the 12 chapters. (I have to stop myself from calling them stories; they seem fashioned as such, excepting the very last, which wraps up some connective threads running through the others.)
MacPherson is something of a mystic (perhaps gnostic is a better word), in tune with the natural rhythms of the Nova Scotian landscape and lately indulging in heavy fasting, which gives him a transcendent vision. As he says: "The months are very important to me. Name a month and it rings inside me like a sound, a colour, a package of emotion and smelt."
Lesley Choyce recreates the internal world of a crusty but tender Maritimer with compassion and insight, although the latter is sometimes a trifle glib; the sensibility of a younger, external influence shows through on occasion. An otherwise delightful passage about MacPherson`s son, Carey, seems jarringly sophisticated and contemporary in its surround of folksy wisdom and acceptance of superstition:
He worked hard at making himself unhappy and this worried me. He had the ambition of an American and I tried to weed I at out of him with love ... [he] was afraid he`d grow up to he like me, a contented old fart without a mortgage or a civilized job and not a debt in the world.
But debts in, or to, the world provide the impetus for many of the chapters. MacPherson acknowledges his life`s lessons in anecdotal form, veering away from explicit moralizing, but allows his conclusions to stand as testaments to spiritual growth, although ambiguities abound. Easy answers may also be worthless.
A not-very-bright woman is caught up in the religious fervour of a mulatto Baptist until his sacrificial goat becomes her talisman of a true creed, and, quite possibly, the model for her revenge. Joe Allen Joe, the last Micmac in the area, wins a suit against the expropriation of a parcel of land by having himself baptized a Christian. In allowing this exchange, the judge refuses to extrapolate further on the nature of identity "not wanting the law to be perverted too far toward justice
in one day." MacPherson and a young art student, Kelly, strive to rescue a beached whale, although they both know that, once freed, it might strand itself again. This may he the weakest section of the book, rife as it is with stereotypical roleplaying. Kelly`s response to the whale`s plight is an emotional one; she seems incapable of action other than soliciting male help. MacPherson takes charge and supplies the brains and most of the muscle power, although once she`s told what to do, the much younger Kelly helps row the rescue boat. When his strength was almost gone "Kelly stopped rowing suddenly and kissed me hard on the mouth ... She wanted to make sure I didn`t give LIP. And I knew I would`t."
I started to wonder how this man`s love could cure his son`s ambition -- by taking his mind off the task at hand? by reducing human striving to the games of men and women? -- but finally I decided that whales are worth saving, by whatever means, and I let go of my niggling negativity.
The hooks power comes more from Choyce`s careful use of language than from the events of the man`s life. Descriptive Passages draw the reader into a convincing, recreated world and the metaphors are often strikingly original. A car going over a cliff lands in a "fistfight of metal against rock." When MacPhersons experience and his expression come together, The Second Season of Jonas MacPherson stands as a fine novel