Saturday, September 28, 2013

Caught by Lisa Moore

Lisa Moore's Caught is a high-stakes adventure that begins in the Maritimes in 1978 when David Slaney crawls under a fence and escapes from prison. Slaney is on the run, across Canada and then onward to South America, never sure who he can trust. He is determined that he will never be locked up again.

RCMP Inspector Patterson is close on Slaney's heels. He is determined to gain a long-overdue promotion by capturing Slaney and his accomplices.

This book has everything I love: great characters, a strong sense of place, an engaging plot and an elegant way with language.

Slaney is an entirely sympathetic young man who has made some bad choices. He meets all kinds of interesting people on his travels.

A salesclerk in a Montreal toy store knew that Slaney "was Anglo by the look of him and addressed him in English. She flattened everything she said like she was running it through a ringer washer. All the th's were d's and she was dropping h's and she was emphatic. Her vowels had carbuncles and she resented having to spit them out and it was as sexy as anything Slaney had ever heard."

Slaney spent weeks on a boat in the company of a different young woman. "Ada was reading murder mysteries and Hemingway and she had a Fitzgerald and a really good Dashiell Hammett, she said, and when she was done she tossed them over the side." (That image will stay with me!)

Faith is explored from different angles. An orgasm is likened to a sacrament: "She spoke a few words and it was a phrase from a prayer." And then religion pops up again on the very next page: "Three soldiers took the bag below deck to count the money and they all waited in the hot sun with their heads bowed, silent, as though in church." A little later, "There was the ridiculous golden light, liturgical and autumnal, touching everything glass and metal."

Are our lives subject to some divine plan? "The best stories, he thought, we've known the end from the beginning."

We are mortal, and so in life it is our journeys that matter, not our end. In fiction, I want both: a good trip and a good ending. Moore delivers both in Caught.

It happened that I was listening to Piper Kerman's memoir Orange Is the New Black during the same stretch of time that I was reading Caught. It was a bit surreal, contrasting fiction and nonfiction about serving time for criminal activity relating to drugs, but also a good pairing.

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