I Was There the Night He Died

Ray Robertson. Biblioasis (Consortium, U.S. dist.; PGC, Canadian dist.), US$16.95/C$19.95 trade paper (223p) ISBN 978-1-927428-69-6
When novelist Sam Samson returns to his battered hometown of Chatham, Ont.—"Canada's cancer capital" and a forlorn factory town where arson and charity clothing stores are, Samson's sharp-tongued narration notes, the biggest growth industries—he is full of "death thoughts." He's deeply sad, angry, and desperate for distractions: Within a five-year span, his mother, wife and dog have died; and after a long absence, his reluctant homecoming is in response to his institutionalized father's aggressive Alzheimer's. Coming off an addiction to speed (and reliant on ample substitutions of caffeine, wine, and marijuana), and trying to write a book about the lives and deaths of important popular musicians, Samson's a bundle of contradictory impulses and swinging moods. Over the change from "wintertime's squall and shiver" to April's greater light, however, the "selfish sonofabitch" undergoes incremental changes. Between bouts of cleaning out his parents' house, he visits high school acquaintances and an uncle and befriends a troubled and cynical teenage girl. As Robertson (Home Movies) ponders family and home as well as "what it means to love someone and to lose someone and to have to go on living anyway," he presents an intriguing character whose very real troubles are offset by bright flashes of hope. Agent: Samantha Haywood, Transatlantic Agency. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/21/2014
Release date: 06/01/2014
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