Volume 19 Number 2
Shortlisted for the 1990 Governor General's Literary Award for English-language juvenile fiction, Covered Bridge reintroduces middle school readers to some of the major characters from Doyle's 1988 CLA Book of the Year for Children winner, Easy Avenue (Douglas & Mclntrye, 1988).
Via first-person narrative, high schooler Hubbo O'Driscoll shares the major happenings in Mushrat Creek, a small Ouébec community, during the summer of 1950. An orphan, Hubbo lives with his aunt and uncle, who have just moved to a farm from Ottawa's Uplands Emergency Shelter. Prior to leaving Ottawa, Hubbo had experienced the loss of his "love", Fleurette Featherstone Fitchell, when her family suddenly departed without leaving a forwarding address. Throughout Covered Bridge, Hubbo maintains a running letter to Fleurette with no surety that it will ever be mailed.
As the title suggests, a wooden covered bridge is central to this story of progress vs. posterity and ritual vs. romance. Hubbo, recently hired as the bridge's part-time caretaker, loses his job when the county decides to replace the half-century-old structure with a new steel bridge upstream. Connected to the bridge's history is a tragic romance, the outcome of which is marked by a grave outside the community's "blessed" burial grounds. As the bridge faces imminent destruction, an historical moral injustice is righted, and "Foolish Father Francis Foley from Farrelton," one of the bridge's "enemies," unwittingly becomes its saviour.
Short chapters with catchy tabloid-like headings, such as "Goat Possessed by Satan!" and "Man's Head Turns into Pumpkin!" will propel readers through the brief text. Doyle's humour is again omnipresent as Hubbo offers his observations on the behaviours of Mushrat Creek's inhabitants, including Old Mickey Malarkey, supposedly 112 and the biggest liar on the Gatineau River. Hubbo laces his ongoing letter to Fleurette with similes which, instead of meeting his purpose of clarifying his writing, only make it more confusing and humorous.
While Covered Bridge can be read without knowledge of Easy Avenue 's content, Hubbo's passing references to events from the earlier book will likely lead some readers back to it. Covered Bridge 's "grabber" concluding sentence suggests that readers may not have seen the last of Hubbo.
Dave Jenkinson, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB.
1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995
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