cover image The Only Café

The Only Café

Linden MacIntyre. Random House Canada, $32 (432p) ISBN 978-0-345-81206-3

In this smart, tough novel, veteran journalist and author MacIntyre, whose novel The Bishop’s Man won Canada’s Scotiabank Giller Prize, turns his sharp eye to a piece of history that he covered as a CBC reporter: the Lebanese civil war, and specifically, a 1982 massacre at the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila. The story follows a young Canadian man named Cyril Cormier who’s trying to find himself while struggling through a break-up with his girlfriend, starting a new job as an intern at a major news network, and trying to understand the mysterious life and death of his father. Pierre Cormier came to Canada as a refugee from Lebanon in 1983, changed his name, married Cyril’s mother, became a successful Toronto lawyer, and never talked about his experience in the war. The story is partially told from his perspective, as long-blocked memories resurface. After Pierre’s death, his family is surprised by his written request that they remember him in a roast at an obscure café and invite a person named Ari, whom none of them know. It sets Cyril off on a quest to find Ari and to learn who his father really was. This intrigue leads readers into a provocative literary page-turner that offers piercing glimpses of how people survive and are destroyed by war. (Aug.)