The Good Body

Bill Gaston, Author
Bill Gaston, Author William Morrow & Company $25 (288p) ISBN 978-0-06-039411-0
Reviewed on: 02/01/2001
Release date: 02/01/2001
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-06-098887-6
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Although a quick synopsis of Canadian writer Gaston's American debut might sound maudlin--a rootless minor-league hockey player contracts multiple sclerosis and goes home to make peace with the family he's neglected for years--the novel itself is not. Told in finely calibrated prose that captures not only the agonizing eloquence of a body betraying its tenant but the rough-edged mumble of a professional athlete's voice, the novel walks a fine line with certainty and grace. Forty-year-old Bobby Bonaduce keeps mum about his illness, deciding not to retire from hockey in the U.S. and return to Fredericton, Canada, hoping to score sympathy points with Leah Miller, the wife he left 10 years before but never divorced, and Jason, his 20-year-old son with whom he exchanges about four letters every two years. Instead, he enrolls as a graduate student in English at the University of New Brunswick in order to play hockey on his son's team. Neither classes nor family reconciliation go as smoothly as Bobby hopes, and the ensuing mix of hilarity and heartbreak gives the book its sweet, gritty signature. The prodigal student rents a room from a group of young students, becoming close friends with one of them--a wry young woman named Margaret--and, in a clever twist, with Oscar, Leah's current lover. Although the narration dips into a few other characters' minds, Bobby is the star of this show; he confronts his dilemmas with the hopefulness of a child and the bravado of an oncoming truck. A seamless tone (one that isn't ""afraid to sing it into sweet words""), a cast of warm, genuine characters and a confluence of unlikely but wholly believable events bring this modern hero to life. (Feb. 16)
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