by W.P. Kinsella
Twenty-Six opens with Ziv, a 23-year-old Nova Scotian, drunk and
wandering the freezing streets of a small mining town. Ziv's father
is an old drunk, while Ziv's older brother, Arvel, is back at the
family home after being kicked out by his wife for being a drunk.
This is not a happy home, nor is it full of likable characters. It
is often difficult to know exactly what this novel is about or whose
story it is. There is a mine disaster, loosely based, we are told,
on the Westray mine disaster, where Arvel is killed along with 25
other men. If Arvel had been a decent young man with a loving
family he would engender sympathy. As it is, his wife is relieved
that he is gone so she can move to Halifax and get on with her life.
Arvel is just one less drunken loser. The old drunk father who
fought constantly with Arvel, uses Arvel's death as an excuse to
get even more drunk and, in an act of great self-indulgence, trash
his own home.
Ziv, who was smart enough not to work in the mines, has a girlfriend
who has escaped the terrible little town by taking a teaching job
in Japan. Ziv holds a part time, dead-end job at Zeller's and wants
her to come home and live with him. Though slightly ambiguous, it
appears she is going to stay in Japan and explore her bisexuality.
There is an inquiry into the mine disaster but it is still in
progress when the novel ends, though it certainly appears that the
mine owners were negligent. Nothing is resolved. This is a
depressing portrait of unhappy people in unpleasant surroundings.