||Review of Stolen
by Nancy Wigston
Stolen by Annette Lapointe (Anvil Press, 232 pages, $20.00, paper, ISBN: 1895636736). This account of a young thief and drug dealer's life in rural Saskatchewan locks us into the mind of Rowan Friesen, a young man "known to police" since he and a mentally fragile pal blew up their high school. A master of the break-and-enter, Rowan proudly makes his living stealing and selling his loot on the Net. Lapointe's study of this twenty-six-year-old rebel bespeaks a sombre fascination. By adding a dollop of mystery (Whose body is Rowan burying in the first chapter?), she makes us want to stick around, despite her habit of listing Rowan's favourite rock songs.
In startling counterpoint to the grimness is Rowan's capacity for sensitive wonder: "The night's so beautiful. It's a perfect smoke-colour created by distance and the barest haze of tractor-burned diesel. Dust rising from scattered fields." Soon afterward, this poet of the prairies unloads the "thing" that's been in his barn for weeks; it "loses its skin as smoothly as an old peach." Then he's back on the road, amazed by the spring evening: "the air's so warm he can feel the colour rubbing into his skin."
A self-taught science geek, Rowan was raised by back-to-the-land parents and their odd collection of friends and relations. The trouble began when his father developed schizophrenia and his mother, though caring, followed her own path toward selfhood with consequences for Rowan that would disqualify her as mother of the year. Emotionally draining scenes from Rowan's childhood may be meant to elicit sympathy, yet the Rowan we meet is dangerous and hard to warm up to.
Befriending mainstream geeks from the university community¨where he also finds a lover¨he spitefully retaliates for a perceived slight in a fashion readers will find repellant. But his lover sticks by him, and several sex scenes later, to his own tough-guy surprise, Rowan actually does the right thing. Against the backdrop of the prairies and the north few of us know ("strange air out there," notes Rowan), Lapointe portrays an angry young man making reluctant peace with those who made him angry, a boy rescuing the mother who failed to rescue him.