by W.P. Kinsella
The Sundog Season, by John Geddes is a wistful coming of age novel, deadly accurate in its portrayal of a 13-year-old small-town boy as he tries to make sense of the adult world that surrounds him. The opening is a grabber. "When I was five years old I wished for the death of another boy, prayed for it, and it happened." He lives in the tiny gold mining town of Spirit Lake in Northern Ontario, and is surrounded by a strong cast of supporting players: an older sister who may be more worldly than he imagines, an immigrant ice-maker for the hockey rink who lives on a tiny island, his less fortunate friend Mike, his pharmacist father, and some gossipy old ladies. The "stranger" arrives and he changes all their lives. The stranger is Sgt. Martin of the provincial police. Various rumors abound: some say he is after drug dealers; others claim he has been sent to investigate high-grading (the practice of miners smuggling gold out of the mine to sell on the black market); and some suspect that he is a bad cop who has been sent into exile-because of something involving girls and money.
The sergeant becomes coach of the narrator's hockey team, and proves to be exceptionally talented in that regard. Still there is something wrong. I won't give away the subtle but wonderful plot twists. The writing is exceptional, clear, straightforward, allowing us to see and hear the characters as if they were in the room. Geddes captures the hard moments when truths about living and dying are first encountered.