The Lost Oasis

Patrick Roscoe, Author
Patrick Roscoe, Author McClelland & Stewart $14.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-7710-7579-7
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Roscoe (Love Is Starving for Itself) has a smooth style, but there is a whole lot of nothing in this pleasant but ultimately vacuous novel. Richard is living in Seville with his first long-term lover, Jose, when he gets a phone call teling him that his father has disappeared. The phone call evokes an engaging retelling of Richard's family history: his parents marriage and early life in the small British Columbia town of Brale; his mother's mental illness and hospitalization; and his family's subsequent rootless journeys to Europe and Africa. Clearly, this was a strange background (the children barely remember their mother and were ignorant of the treatment she was undergoing), but Richard recalls it with a vague sense of desperation, never clearly defining what was so truly awful about it. What ensues is a somewhat heavy-handed mix of memories of life with his remote father (``Travel light, travel right'' was his motto) and details about Richard's trip to Africa in search of him. Some of this is believable, and even quite moving. Richard's descriptions of his pre-Jose relationships and their transience, for example, is quite accomplished. But much of the story that takes place in Africa is problematic because, while Roscoe is hell-bent on making Africa ``mean something,'' much of the narrative there is really just aimless looking around, a collection of episodes unconnected by any real unifying thread. (Sept.)
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