Getting to Know Yourself through the Thoughts of Others | Review of “Daddy Lenin and Other Stories” by Guy Vanderhaeghe (2015) McClelland & Stewart

Lenin

The beauty of a good piece of literature is the ability to empathize with the plight of the characters. A good writer can make a reader relate to the people he is talking about in a few simple words. Guy Vanderhaeghe is one such writer with that skill and he brings that skill forward repeatedly in his latest collection called Daddy Lenin And Other Stories.

Tick Tock Page 14

Charley Brewster’s hands hadn’t given him a moment’s grief for nearly forty years, had behaved themselves, and then, after the young couple moved into the apartment next door, they began to torment him relentlessly.

Not to say that Vanderhaeghe’s writing is not without some lyrical quality here. The stories flow, the characters ebb with the flow of the story and the reader’s mind rides along with each story to absorbing each element into their own mind. This is a great read for a quiet moment to ponder and reflect on.

Koenig & Company Pages 56-57

The prospect of another dining experience at the Koenigs’ kept me on edge all the next afternoon. Around four o’clock I heard a knock at the door. This was surprising, my family never had visitors. I parted the curtains, looked out, and saw Sabrina Koenig on the step, visible to anyone who might be passing by, a brown paper bag clutched to her chest. I rushed to the door, wrenched it open, and barked, “What!” straight into her face.

She didn’t flinch; she grinned. “Hello, Billy Dowd, today’s your lucky day,” she said.

“Get in here.” The instant she crossed the threshold, I slammed the door, panicked somebody might see me and her together.

“Where’s the kitchen?”

I pointed. i didn’t know what else to do. She set off in her halting, wincing stride. after a few moments of bewildered indecision, I followed, found her unpacking canned goods, fresh vegetables, and a package of meat.

I asked her what she thought she was doing.

“Making a trial run.”

“Trial run of what?”

Sabrina toyed with the groceries, shifting them about on the countertop as if she were trying to arrange them in a pattern that matched the logic of her thoughts. “I thought I’d cook for you tonight. You like your supper, then we can work out a deal. Maybe.”

“What kind of deal?”

Vanderhaeghe has brought forward interesting situations in the human condition that may initially seem odd but do occur in our lives. We do often wonder what has happened to the spurned lover or that overly-teased classmate as we get older. Here, Vanderhaeghe gives us a few scenarios where a protagonist finds out what has happened to Person X who may have had a certain greyish impact on the protagonist’s life.

Anything Page 178-179

Tony opened his eyes, ran his hands over the sheets and his eyes around the room. He called “Susan?” several times, but there was no answer. She was gone. He would have liked it if she had stayed; her presence, any presence, would have been welcome after the dream he had just awoken from. In it, he and his wife were waiting to board a flight in a vast airport reminiscent of Heathrow. When Betty told him she was going to take a quick look around the duty-free shop, he merely nodded. She disappeared into the crowd of travellers, and as she did, he glanced at his watch and was astonished to see that they had lost track of the time. It was only a few minutes before their gate would close. He stood up to call her back, but before a word left his mouth he suddenly found himself in the Qu’Appelle Valley on a fiercely windy day, whitecaps breaking on the beach.

Each time the waves slapped the sand, he grew more and more uneasy, sure that there was something he had forgotten to do, something besides keeping an eye on their departure time, something of the utmost importance. but for the life of him he couldn’t think what it was. He sensed it hovering behind him, back where Betty’s beloved cottage stood. But he couldn’t bring himself to turn and face it because if he did that, he would have to acknowledge the neglected presence.

Tony eased himself out of bed and wet to his laptop. Staring at the screen, he tried out and tested various phrases in his mind. Then he tapped out an email.

Daddy Lenin and Other Stories by Guy Vanderhaeghe is a brilliant piece of literature. Here, we are given a selection of elements important to the human condition which we otherwise wouldn’t consider. A brilliant and insightful read.

Link to Penguin Random House Canada’s page for Daddy Lenin and Other Stories

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