A Game to Play on the Tracks

by Lorna Jackson
ISBN: 0889842310

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A Review of: A Game to Play on the Tracks
by W.P. Kinsella

In my bottom drawer are a couple of would-be novels that that sprinted out of the gate and roared along for 50 to a 100 pages, then petered out. I knew I could never match the pace of those opening pages so left them unfinished. Such is pretty much the case with Jackson's novel, which is a wild slippery ride (a novella unto itself) for nearly 100 pages, but then loses it's fire.
Arden is a thirtyish county singer with an aching heart and an alcohol problem who marries a bland fellow named Nichol, has a baby, Roy, and tries to lead a domestic life. But the pull of the road is too much and she heads out with Roy in tow, to tour the sleaziest of the many seedy bars in Northern BC. This is Ruby Red territory. That novel by William Price Fox, is the only great novel I know of about a female country singer. Arden has a horrific experience, after which she drops her son off with his father and this is the last we ever see of her. Unfortunately, she is such a powerful presence, so much larger than life, that what follows is all anticlimax. If characters were colors, Arden is scarlet, the remainder are beige. Sections are narrated by various women who come in contact with Nichol and Roy, including Arden's younger sister, and a woman who contracts to build Nichol a house on one of the Gulf Islands. The pace slows to a crawl and none of the characters come alive, especially Nichol. There is some clever word play; for instance, it was interesting to find that the word snide takes an S. The long epigraphs are another matter and most could have been cut. The final section is narrated by Roy as a teenager; there are some possibilities when he comes into possession of the journals Arden left behind, but by this time the author seems to have lost interest in the project.

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