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by L.B.

AN EDMONTON ROOMING-HOUSE serves as Cecelia Frey`s "ship of fools" in The Love Song of Romeo Paquette (Thistledown, 160 pages, $14.95 paper), 15 linked stories introduced by a prologue and ending with a reprise. Most of the stories are told through the consciousness of the title character, the caretaker of the roominghouse. Romeo is a simple soul, ignorant of such matters as Edmonton geography (even though he has lived in the city for decades) and what a word processor does (even though his granddaughter, who lives with him, has been studying the craft long enough to get a diploma in it). He bases his judgements on surface appearances, with the result that Frey`s readers can`t know any of the characters much better than Romeo knows them, and therefore car* care much about them as human beings. Although each character seems vivid enough in any given story, none is well developed over the course of the book. The Love Song of Romeo Paquette is a collection of anecdotes rather than fully realized stories; and I suspect that reading them individually in literary magazines would be both more entertaining and more rewarding, than reading them all at once.

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