||First Novels - Mid-lives, MS, & an Info-Novel
by Eva Tihanyi
Barry Kennedy's Through the Deadfall (Doubleday, 362 pages, $19.95 ) begins with two situations that soon become intertwined. Jack Thorpe, a marine biologist turned hardware store owner, is careering toward a mid-life crisis. He has abandoned the corporate rat race but remains dissatisfied: with his marriage, his work at the store, his entire life. In the meantime, the town where he and his wife live-Salish Spit on Vancouver Island-is in upheaval over a proposal to build a tunnel and a bridge connecting it to the mainland. Some members of the community feel such a link would boost their weak economy, while others consider it an assault on their small-town way of life, which they fear will be destroyed. Jack sides with those who oppose the link, and becomes active in a group determined to prevent it from becoming a reality.
To complicate matters, Jack has a one-night stand with the mayor's daughter. The very next day his wife hears about it and moves out, thereby reducing his life to what he describes as "a triangle with the three points being my store, the house, and the pub." It is at the third of these that he ends up spending most of his time, plotting and bonding with his buddies-"dialoguing", as it were.
Unfortunately, much of the dialogue through the novel is like this: "What seems trivial is only mildly so compared to everything else our species does. We have no external reference point, so momentous issues are not perceived as being kindred to the mundane. Doubtless if there is an ancient extraterrestrial intelligence pontificating on our race, he would consider Einstein's discovering general relativity to be of a different order of magnitude than the old genius picking his ear with a car key."
Still, Kennedy, who is an actor and stand-up comedian, does create a few humorous moments, most notably in the character of Eagle, Jack's best friend, but also in the voice of Jack himself. As a narrator, Jack alternates between self-depreciation and arrogance as he tries to get his life back on track. His recognition of the ironies in his situation provide welcome comic relief.