As if By Accident

by Julie Johnston
276 pages,
ISBN: 1552636917

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First Novels
by W.P. Kinsella

As if By Accident, by Julie Johnston, is very predictable little novel might have made a teary movie of the week, a vehicle for an older actress, back when such things were in vogue. The first section of the book is about Val, a Toronto fiction editor, pushing 50, and somewhat bored with her 11-year marriage to Ed, a renovation contractor. Because he has to work late, they decide to take separate cars to an out of town social event. Val narrowly avoids an accident because of a piece of timber on the road. She thinks of stopping and dragging it off the road, but doesn't. Ed is not so lucky; he is involved in a multi-vehicle accident caused by the same piece of timber and dies. Val grieves more than we would think she should, although most of it is caused by guilt. Then she discovers that Ed had some sort of secret life; he owned and maintained a house in a backwoods area which is occupied by a mysterious woman. Although Val miscarried early in the relationship, she has always dreamed of children. She's surprised, therefore, to discover that Ed has had a vasectomy. Val begins to investigate. The second section is about Gus, who was brought up in a strange household dominated by an idiot savant brother who seldom left his room. Gus escapes to Hollywood where he is a hack screenwriter for many years. He returns to Toronto, converts a failed screenplay into a novel and drops it off at the publisher where Val works, conveniently forgetting to put anything but his name on the manuscript. Val loves the manuscript and wants to publish it, but can't find the author to tell him so. There is a fire and the troubled brother dashes back into the flames and dies. Gus blames himself for not stopping him. In the third section Val and Gus, after a number of near misses finally meet. Each comes to terms with their grief. Val finds that Ed was justified in his actions. At the end the future looks promising for both.

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