cover image Fish Change Direction in Cold Weather

Fish Change Direction in Cold Weather

Pierre Szalowski, trans. from the French by Alison Anderson. Canongate, $13.95 (246p) ISBN 978-0-85786-162-7

In 1998, upon hearing the news that his parents plan to separate, a 10-year-old quietly slips off to his room, looks to the sky, and prays for help. The sky’s response, or so this unnamed boy believes, is a historic ice storm—one that cripples his Montreal suburb and forces his fractured family, as well as a handful of his neighbors, to band together in order to stay warm. The trouble with Szalowski’s debut novel is that its resolutions are never much in doubt. When the electricity goes out at the apartment of isolated scientist Boris Bogdanov, he and his fish (the subject of his Ph.D. dissertation) move across the street to stay with Julie, a beautiful stripper grown weary of men. Likewise, when Alexis, a misanthropic, borderline alcoholic, loses power in the apartment he shares with his troubled son Alex, they cross the street to stay with Michel and Simon, two gay men posing as brothers to avoid bigoted condemnation. As these strangers are forced together, the struggle to stay warm quickly turns into a struggle for understanding—of themselves and of each other. And in this tidy volume, none of these struggles are terribly difficult to overcome. The result is a sometimes sweet, sometimes funny story—one that is too relentless in its quest for happy endings and that ultimately disappoints. (Nov.)