How Do You Spell Abducted?

by Cherylyn Stacey,
136 pages,
ISBN: 0889951489

Post Your Opinion
Children`s Books
by Allison Sutherland

Michael Coren, the Don Cherry wannabe of Canadian letters, has said that How Do You Spell Abducted? is a "piece of rubbish and...little more than hate literature." Not having read the book, Julius Yankowsky, an Alberta MLA, would like to have it banned. As a result, Stacey's publisher says, the book is selling quite nicely.

The plot: Deb's father abducts her and a younger brother and sister and takes them across the U.S. border with forged custody papers; the kids escape and make their way back to their mother. Such plot elements have been used before in children's novels, but they are reasonably well handled here, and move the reader along with a minimum of glaring implausibilities. The backseat bickering of the sisters is particularly convincing, and is bound to elicit rueful grins from those who have sisters of their own. One feels almost as sorry for Dad as for his children. But not quite.

Because their fear of him seems very real, though at times mystifying to the reader. He has never actually harmed any of them, but Deb at least seems to feel that it is a real possibility that he will. What comes across most clearly is his incompetence. The mother says at one point, "If I had any sense, I'd let him take them and see just how much trouble three kids can be! Wouldn't it just teach him a lesson if I did?" He is not so much dangerous as inept, as evinced by a night he and the children spend at a campsite, when he hasn't thought of what they are to have for supper:

"We didn't have any food with us except for four chocolate bars, but Dad didn't figure that'd be any problem either because we'd eaten about three o'clock in the afternoon.

" `You'll be fine until morning,' he told us."

A grandmother I read that bit to burst out laughing and said, "Typical!" Although the man isn't actually abusive, he conforms to what women assume a certain type of man will do if left on his own to look after children.

This novel is not top-quality stuff, but it's certainly not rubbish. What probably made Coren so cross is the wickedly accurate depiction of an irresponsible, immature man, who reacts to his own inadequacies with vindictive and, in a minor way, aggressive behaviour. If the portrait had been less plausible, it could have been dismissed without comment. Stacey shows Dad through Deb's eyes, and the reader has no problem making allowances for her hostility. You quickly perceive the man's charm and humour and, weirdly, his good intentions; by the end of the story you wish him well and hope that things work out for him. But if Coren thinks this is hate literature he should read Harriet's Daughter by Marlene Nourbese Philip, or.... Well, it would be easy enough to compile a bibliography for him. l

Alison Sutherland has sisters.


Home First Novel Award Past Winners Subscription Back Issues Timescroll Advertizing Rates
Amazon.ca/Books in Canada Bestsellers List Books in Issue Books in Department About Us