George & Rue

by George Elliott Clarke
223 pages,
ISBN: 0002255391

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A Review of: George & Rue
by W.P. Kinsella

"The cold, grisly wrist kiss of handcuffs" is only one of hundreds of striking images found in Africadian author Clarke's difficult story of brothers, George and Rufus Hamilton, who were hanged over 50 years ago for a despicable and senseless murder. Asa, father to George and Rufus, describes his wife, Cynthy: "Dependin on light, she was tawny and mahogany and dusky and chocolate and coffee an coconut and brass and bronze and rosy. Blackness were wine, muscles, sweat, laughter, fire, gleams, amen." This is a brilliantly poetic story about a non-poetic subject. George and Rufus are born into grinding poverty in a black New Brunswick community. Their father is a brute, their mother longs to escape to the city and cares little about them. George is not very bright, and consequently doesn't get into too much trouble, though he does some time for breaking and entering. George doesn't expect his life to rise above the level of occasional work, poverty, drinking and racism. Rufus is the smart one, and musically talented, but again poverty and racism conspire to keep him in the same place. He is mean and criminally inclined. Eventually the brothers commit a stupid crime, killing a taxi driver after riding around town with him most of the evening. Their take is small and squandered almost immediately on booze and women. They aren't hard to catch and are easily convicted and summarily executed. The brothers were distant cousins of the author and he stirs together fact and fiction in a convincing, if depressing story. Clarke's poetry saves the day, for if the story sometimes becomes too much, the poetic language lifts the tale above the mundane.

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