The Town That Forgot How to Breathe

by Kenneth J. Harvey
ISBN: 1551925923

Post Your Opinion
A Review of: The Town that Forgot How to Breathe
by Des McNally

At the moment I feel as if I've just returned from the most incredible and exciting visit to Bareneed, Newfoundland and now must gather my wits so I can decide why much of Harvey's latest novel seemed so real and so surreal at the same time!
Harvey, cleverly and thoughtfully introduces Miss Eileen Laracy early in his novel (you'll hear more about her later), the character who eases us into Bareneed and the personalities of so many of its citizens.
Early in the tale we meet Joseph, divorced from Kim, and their daughter Robin. These three are meant to spend a three-week vacation in Bareneed to fish, meet Joseph's Uncle Doug and enjoy the port town his father grew up in.
One feels immediately that there is a warm relationship between the author and his chosen setting. He expresses this through affectionate, humourous descriptions of his wonderful cast of characters and of the town and its environs.
But just as we begin to feel an affinity for the people of the town , they start coming down with a mysterious ailment. Lloyd Fowler, an otherwise decent man, imagines bludgeoning his wife to death. At the same time, he decides to stop breathing. To breathe suddenly seems to Lloyd like too much trouble. He dies, and in short order three more residents are stricken with the same illness. In each case the bizarre condition is accompanied by projections of violent emotions.
At the same time, sinister sea beasts, and long dead corpses begin appearing in the harbour. On the pier, an Albino Shark disgorges a man's head which is so well preserved that it can be identified. In addition to these peculiar happenings the residents must deal with the spread of the breathing disorder. They are shocked when the Armed Forces arrive, bringing with them the predatory press. What do these developments presage?
Meanwhile, Joseph and his daughter are experiencing their own mystical and grotesque nightmares courtesy of their next-door neighbour, Claudia, and her deceased (yes deceased) daughter Jessica. This situation, made stranger by its sensual overtone is further complicated by the arrival of Joseph's wife Kim.
Harvey, a true talent and superior storyteller, balances the frightening elements of his tale with the most enjoyable wit and humour. The local eccentrics beguile us with their tales of "a style of life abandoned," happenings that would "dazzle yer wits" all in a dialect that borders on a foreign language. In the midst of this alarming, violent, fantastical setting, a milieu in which legends take on new life, Harvey has decided to show us what can happen to people when their identity and traditional way of life is threatened.
I'm grateful to the author for allowing his loveable Eileen Laracy to be the one to discover and explain to us the connection between the strange and fantastic events and the odd breathing sickness in Bareneed. I couldn't imagine anyone refusing the opportunity to sit down with the toothless old Miss Laracy, listen to her tales of "da ghosts" and children being taken away by "da fairies" and "av' a nice cup o' tea n a bit of dinner."

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