Colin McAdam, Author . Harcourt $24 (403p) ISBN 978-0-15-101028-8

Urban planning and construction in Ottawa, Canada, might seem like dull subjects on which to build a novel, but in this compelling, bawdy debut, McAdam fashions them into powerful metaphors for the ambitions and personalities of two opposing characters, Jerry McGuinty and Simon Struthers. An introverted construction worker whose most reliable expression is "fuckin eh," McGuinty dreams of building better houses than the shoddy tract homes he's hired to plaster; eventually, he becomes one of the most powerful developers of suburban Ottawa. Struthers, on the other hand, is the master of the charming, vapid bureaucratic memo; the government's director of design and land use, he has a reputation for a smooth tongue in the office and among the ladies. Distracted by one love affair after another, Struthers feels age erode his promise until he becomes desperate to accomplish some great public works project—on the same piece of land where McGuinty is determined to build his most magnificent housing community yet. Fans of Martin Dressler will appreciate McAdam's attention to the mechanics of real estate development, but his forceful, cartwheeling prose style is more akin to that of Dermot Healy or Lawrence Sterne. His first-person narrators wink and hint at the reader, and he sometimes indulges in stream of consciousness or other formal play. Some of these sections have more flash than substance—the book's least successful bit is its first 20 pages. But McAdam redeems himself by fusing his housing narrative with a thoughtful exploration of the dynamics of home, where the relationships between fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, can often be more loving than those between husband and wife. Technical prowess and a surprising empathy mark McAdam as a writer to watch. Agent, Bill Clegg. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/08/2004
Release date: 04/01/2004
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 357 pages - 978-0-09-945894-4
Hardcover - 403 pages - 978-1-55192-695-7
Paperback - 403 pages - 978-0-15-603214-8
Paperback - 398 pages - 978-1-61695-443-7
Hardcover - 357 pages - 978-0-224-06455-2
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