cover image The Gifted

The Gifted

Gail Bowen. Random House of Canada/McClelland & Stewart, $29.95 (272p) ISBN 978-

The fourteenth book in the Joanne Kilbourn series sees Jo and her husband Zack distracted by municipal corruption just as their daughter Taylor's art career is taking off. Taylor, whose birth mother was a talented but eccentric artist herself, soon learns that genuine talent and craft can be as much a burden as a gift; she becomes the epicenter of a flock of hangers-on and would-be Svengalis, some quite inappropriate for a teenaged girl. At the same time, Jo and Zack's social circle is disrupted by revelations of infidelity; the two plots intersect at the battered corpse of a philandering wife whose lover is none other than Taylor's model Julian. The novel eschews a purely investigatory focus, preferring to use the mystery to facilitate an examination of Regina's arts and social activist communities, overlapping worlds of good intentions often sabotaged by human frailties and simple greed. Bowen's prose is straight-forward, and the essential set-up %E2%80%94 an amateur drawn into a murder investigation %E2%80%94 fairly conventional, but Bowen uses these sturdy building blocks with skill and inspiration. The result is less a murder mystery and more a character study sketched out with blunt objects and gray matter. Agent: The Cooke Agency International. (Aug) North American distribution: Random House. Onward Toward What We're Going Toward Ryan Bartelmay Ig (Consortium, dist.), $16.95 trade paper (324p) ISBN 978-1-935439-77-6 Miscommunication reigns in Bartelmay's debut novel about the inevitable attrition of self-delusions. This sprawling narrative straddles two disparate timeframes as we follow the converging lives of Chic Waldbeeser and Mary Norwood in small-town Illinois. Married in 1950 at the age of eighteen, Chic is set up for failure early on after his new bride spies Lijy, Chic's Indian sister-in-law, giving her husband an intimate backrub at the wedding reception.%C2%A0This furtive attraction blows up further after Lijy gets knocked up by a local man and convinces Chic to assume responsibility for the baby in a ploy to keep her husband from leaving. In a parallel story%E2%80%94mostly set in the 90s%E2%80%94pool hustler Mary, still recovering from a heart-wrenching break up with her former manager, takes up with a wannabe bookie who whimsically moves her to Peoria, Illinois. Then, one night at the casino where she works, Mary notices Chic at the slots and decides to make a move. With Chic unable to let go of his troubled past%E2%80%94his sister-in-law's insidious lie, his failed marriage, the loss of his only son%E2%80%94the relationship goes through one false start after another. Sleuthing the distractions we entertain to cope with rejection and disappointment, Bartleymay's comic debut is a wistful take on the classic American reinvention tale. (Aug.)