The Misadventures of Bumbleberry Finn

by Toivo Toivonen
201 pages,
ISBN: 0968731759

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Brief Reviews
by W. P. Kinsella


Adrift on the Great Lakes aboard The Persephone, twelve year-old Mere has never known life on land. Oblivious to what constitutes a typical life of the average pre-teen, Mere lives with a sixteen year-old runaway, Mark, under the strict rule of her mother Faye.

The reader enters the story as Mere grows impatient for answers about the mystery surrounding her situation. Faye has been taciturn about their past, especially about Mere's father, whom she has not seen since Mere was three. With a guilty conscience, the girl takes careful steps behind her mother's back to reconnect with her past.

When the Persephone pulls into Toronto Harbour one chilly November day in 1983 to Mere's father Merrill waiting on the dock, Mere is thrilled and Faye is furious. Against her mother's will, Mere disappears with her father in an attempt to get to know this man¨a man who up until that moment had been but a dream, a collection of blurry memories.

Meanwhile, back on the sailboat and worried sick about her daughter, Faye relives her memories of the turbulent years that left her no choice but to roam on the Lakes. Remembering the sex, protests, drugs and other exploits of her youth which culminated in her unintentionally killing a Chicago police officer, Faye begins to fall apart. Reaching a state of hysteria, Faye's painstakingly cultivated off-land existence crumbles as her love for her daughter supercedes any fear of dire consequences.

Mere by Esta and Linda Spalding (HarperFlamingo, 209 pages, $28.00, cloth, ISBN: 0002255383) is a consuming tale thanks to the unique storyline. The curiosity inspired by the unusual predicaments the characters find themselves in propels the story along neatly. There's a great deal of foreshadowing, but most of it is cryptic and would not be spotted until a second read through the novel. However, Mere might have had more substance with stronger character development. Just as you begin to get a feel for the characters by their reactions to events, the novel abruptly ends. One can't help but feel a little slighted.

Mere was written by a mother and daughter pair, and this dual authorship results in an interesting style. While some segments of the novel are unsophisticated and factual, others are lyrical and poetic. Perhaps the periodic lavish descriptiveness can be attributed to the contribution of poet authoress Esta Spalding.

At times graceful and other times awkward, Mere is still a captivating book. The Spaldings gracefully tie together a complex muddle of detail from different times and perspectives in a tidy, comprehensible fashion. The longing to discover whether or not everything will turn out well will speed the reader through this book. ˛


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