Dance the River Whale

Ron Mercier, Author Deerbridge Books $13.95 (251p) ISBN 978-0-9668527-0-7
Mercier puts his experience as a psychotherapist and former Catholic priest to good use in this first novel of familial hatred, familial reconciliation and spiritual enlightenment. Tom T treault, 24, a French-Canadian living in Ingram, Mass., is at the end of his tether. Consumed with hatred for his once-beloved grandfather, he has spent the past few years trying to drink himself to death. Tom is rescued from the brink by Anna, the (somewhat implausibly) angelic and devoted nurse who loves him unconditionally, in spite of his stony fury and self-loathing. Another, stranger female savior appears as well: Dark Woman, a mysterious disembodied voice that encourages Tom and teases him into finding the strength he will need for his journey of self-discovery and healing. Much of the plot alternates between Tom's narration and his long, often confusing dialogues with this spirit guide, whose help he needs in confronting his hatred for his grandfather. The roots of this hatred are many: Tom's grandfather called Tom's absent mother a whore and Tom's father a coward. Most complicated of all, the teenaged Tom intervened in his grandfather's attempted suicide. Now the grandfather is dying and wants to unveil the secrets of Tom's tragic family history--if Tom can listen to his heart and trust the old man. The grandfather's revelations set Tom on a journey to recover his Native American heritage and to fulfill his destiny as a healer. The spiritual epiphanies Tom finds along the way range from the surreal to the saccharine, but readers interested in exploring the links between Christianity and Native American spirituality may enjoy Mercier's creative configurations. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
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