Summer Gone

David MacFarlane, Author
David MacFarlane, Author Crown Publishers $23 (288p) ISBN 978-0-517-70262-8
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-385-72075-5
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-86492-281-6
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Canadian journalist and memoirist (The Danger Tree) Macfarlane makes his fiction debut with a spellbinding novel, evoking the magic and betrayals of childhood and the fleeting beauty of summer, ""this poised moment, this skillfully held angle of time."" Set largely in the wild reaches of northern Canada, the book employs a mysterious narrator to follow the life of disenchanted Bay Newling, divorced father of a 12-year-old son, Caz, and editor of a formerly prestigious cultural journal that, for financial reasons, has reinvented itself as a lifestyles magazine. Warned by his doctor that he is dangerously out of shape, Bay decides to bond with Caz on a canoe trip in the same region where Bay himself attended camp 36 years ago, in the pivotal summer of 1964. The story unfolds elliptically, travelling back and forth in time to trace the course of Bay's summers and, not incidentally, his life: the summer his infant sister died, the summer he wrecked his marriage with a quick fling, the summer his parents died in a freak accident. All these events are textured and filtered with the intensity and precision of poetry and embellished by the narrator, whose identity remains secret until the final pages. Macfarlane endows the season with a totemic grace, inscribing it as a breathless moment balanced between the new life of spring and autumn's edging toward death. This is an unabashedly nostalgic book, in which the Beatles still change lives, grown men escape into reverie and fish rise ""to the lure of a yellow moon."" Often melancholy, sometimes humorous, rarely false, Macfarlane's luminous prose is itself like summer: it shimmers. (Apr.)
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