Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Lesser Blessed by Richard Van Camp

It is rare for me to read a book more than once, no matter how much I like it, because there are so many other great books calling out to me. When I do re-read, however, it feels like a treat. Especially when it is a fabulous book like The Lesser Blessed.

It's a skinny little book (119 pages) about a skinny teenager named Larry Sole. Much like Larry, who hides big secrets inside his burn-scarred body, the story contains mysteries. Larry's humorous first person voice is part of what makes this book memorable. Escaping a tragic past, Larry and his mother have recently moved to Fort Simmer (a thinly-disguised Fort Smith) in the NWT. They are of the Tlicho (Dogrib) Nation. Larry is a virgin and he is obsessed with sex. He has a particular fascination with doing it doggie style. He also has the hots for Juliet Hope: "I adored her seven dreams deep." But Juliet is Johnny Beck's girlfriend. And Johnny is Larry's best friend. Or is he? Larry's entry into adulthood takes place amid violence and substance abuse.

Van Camp wrote another piece in Larry's voice - How I Saved Christmas - published in his short story collection Angel Wing Splash Pattern. Van Camp's new collection of stories, The Moon of Letting Go, is outstanding. In an interview on the Kegedonce Press website, Van Camp explained his view of the role of Aboriginal authors: "To be a scout, messenger and tattletale as well as to hold up mirrors and prayer flags and sorrow balloons." Amen to that.

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