________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 7 . . . . November 29, 2002


The Hemingway Tradition. (Orca Soundings).

Kristin Butcher.
Victoria, BC: Orca Books, 2002.
92 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 1-55143-242-0.

Grades 7-9 / Ages 12-14.

Review by Joan Marshall.

***½ /4


"Why would your dad stop doing something he's good at? Did he get another job? Did he run out of ideas? Did he get terminal writer's block? Did he get so rich that he just decided to retire? Did he."

Something inside me exploded.

"He died! Okay?" I growled into her face. "He put a gun into his mouth, and he pulled the trigger. That's why he's not going to come and talk to your newspaper club. So could we please drop the subject?"

Sixteen-year-old Shaw and his mother have recently moved to Winnipeg after the suicide of Shaw’s well-known father, a mystery writer who couldn't accept his homosexuality. Although Shaw makes all the right moves to be accepted at his new high school (he joins the volleyball team and makes a couple of good friends), he struggles with the overwhelming pain of his father's ultimate rejection. Not even his beloved writing soothes his soul. Shaw's new friend, Jai, is an East Indian, and they are attacked in the school parking lot by visiting volleyball players who can't accept losing to a "Paki-lover." Shaw is galvanized to write an article on prejudice for the school newspaper, accepts that Tess may be more to him than just a friend, and gains understanding and peace from reading his father's journals.

     The Hemingway Tradition is one of a series of short high interest novels for teenagers who are just beginning to be attracted to reading. Although the short length of these novels prevents much detailed attention to character and setting, Butcher does a good job of creating the contemporary high school scene in Winnipeg. Shaw's emotional pain is clearly developed, and the descriptions of Tess and Jai are excellent. This story is told in the first person, although through dialogue the reader sees Shaw's mother's deep love for her son and husband. It does strain adult credulity to see Shaw's mother deal so calmly with her husband's gruesome, messy death, but that will not be the focus for any teenager who reads this book.

     The clear theme of the pain of prejudice for the victims, be it on the basis of race or sexual orientation, will appeal to today's activist teens. It's interesting to note that these themes could not have been addressed so directly only a few short years ago.

Highly Recommended.

Joan Marshall is the teacher-librarian at Fort Richmond Collegiate in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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