Saints of Big Harbour

by Lynn Coady

Doubleday Canada | February 11, 2003 | Trade Paperback

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Back then it was spring. He had a truck. A girl had given him a picture for his wallet.

1982 starts well for Guy Boucher. But before long he feels the need to move to the town of Big Harbour to get away from his school, family life, and most of all "the supreme and utter retardation of my existence which mostly takes the form of Isadore".

An Acadian adolescent oppressed by boredom and poverty, Guy is made even more miserable by uncle Isadore who lives with Guy and his mother in exchange for use of his pick-up truck. Isadore is determined to make a man of Guy by feeding him drinks at age ten, coaching him to be an aggressive hockey player, and teaching him to box and not flinch when he''s hit. Fighting is an accepted way of alleviating the tedium of small-town life, and violence finds its way into hockey games and school dances and bars.

Isadore is not an ideal role model, but he''s the only man in the house since the departure of Guy''s father. Isadore once moved away to make something of himself, but now is looked after by his sister, spends his disability cheques on booze, is prone to violent tantrums, and yet commands a certain local respect. He waxes eloquent on family values, loyalty and "being a man". He is a large, confident man, a natural storyteller, and people like to follow him. But in spite of his speeches, he is only concerned with himself, ignorant of the needs of others.

Driving the truck to a dance one night, Guy meets the lovely Corinne Fortune. Corinne also has a physical power that makes people want to share the glow of popularity. Like Isadore, Corinne is manipulative, and a compulsive liar who makes up stories for her friends to fulfil her need to be the centre of attention. Infatuated with her, Guy has no idea what trouble she will get him into. Soon there are two older guys hunting him down, and everyone in town believes he deserves it. Big Harbour is not all he hoped it would be.

Saints of Big Harbour shows Guy''s story from shifting points of view, from Guy to bookish Pam to the schoolteacher Alison. The narrative is populated by a host of lively characters, such as second cousin Ronald, who regularly delivers "fresh deersteak and a two-litre pop bottle filled with holy water" to Pam''s house. There are drinkers and fighting drunks and bitter ex-alcoholics, including those who attend the inappropriately named Alcoholics Anonymous program at the monastery. Isadore''s coaching helps Guy stand up for himself, and in the end he must stand up against Isadore in order to make something of his life. His survival of a hard adolescence makes for a heroism all his own.

Saints of Big Harbour handles the bleak subjects of violence, addiction, small-town mentalities and destructive families with insight, irony and humour, in a compellingly accessible style reminiscent of Roddy Doyle.

Format: Trade Paperback

Published: February 11, 2003

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0385659008

ISBN - 13: 9780385659000

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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Saints of Big Harbour

Saints of Big Harbour

by Lynn Coady

Format: Trade Paperback

Published: February 11, 2003

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0385659008

ISBN - 13: 9780385659000

Read from the Book

1982 Skin All sorts of deals being made around here. According to Isadore, everything is working out "beautifully" for "everyone," meaning him. You''d think he''d planned on being arrested all along. So he is paroled to my mother for driving the truck not just drunk but without a driver''s license or insurance. My mother pays the insurance now that she''s got a job in Big Harbour. I drive the truck all around hell and back, chauffeuring the both of them. My mother into town for her job, Isadore into town (once my mother''s gone as if she won''t know) to the tavern. And what''s Isadore''s job in this great deal? Babysitting me, apparently. And Louise, who is seventeen and hardly ever around anyway. The judge was delighted, he said. "I''m just delighted at this prospect. What this man needs is the responsibilities of a home and a family. God bless his dear sister for her generosity." But it was for the truck. She couldn''t have taken the job without it. Here is Isadore''s idea of baby-sitting: he wakes up at seven when he smells the bacon I''m frying for breakfast. He staggers out of - whose bedroom? my bedroom - without even brushing his teeth or picking the crumbs out of his eyes and grabs the plate out of my hands just as I''m sitting down. Then he dumps a bottle of corn syrup all over the bacon so it''s inedible for anyone except himself, and when I complain, he tells me to make my own. Make my own, like I hadn''t just done it. He reeks. To cover up his bed head, he wears a
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From the Publisher

Back then it was spring. He had a truck. A girl had given him a picture for his wallet.

1982 starts well for Guy Boucher. But before long he feels the need to move to the town of Big Harbour to get away from his school, family life, and most of all "the supreme and utter retardation of my existence which mostly takes the form of Isadore".

An Acadian adolescent oppressed by boredom and poverty, Guy is made even more miserable by uncle Isadore who lives with Guy and his mother in exchange for use of his pick-up truck. Isadore is determined to make a man of Guy by feeding him drinks at age ten, coaching him to be an aggressive hockey player, and teaching him to box and not flinch when he''s hit. Fighting is an accepted way of alleviating the tedium of small-town life, and violence finds its way into hockey games and school dances and bars.

Isadore is not an ideal role model, but he''s the only man in the house since the departure of Guy''s father. Isadore once moved away to make something of himself, but now is looked after by his sister, spends his disability cheques on booze, is prone to violent tantrums, and yet commands a certain local respect. He waxes eloquent on family values, loyalty and "being a man". He is a large, confident man, a natural storyteller, and people like to follow him. But in spite of his speeches, he is only concerned with himself, ignorant of the needs of others.

Driving the truck to a dance one night, Guy meets the lovely Corinne Fortune. Corinne also has a physical power that makes people want to share the glow of popularity. Like Isadore, Corinne is manipulative, and a compulsive liar who makes up stories for her friends to fulfil her need to be the centre of attention. Infatuated with her, Guy has no idea what trouble she will get him into. Soon there are two older guys hunting him down, and everyone in town believes he deserves it. Big Harbour is not all he hoped it would be.

Saints of Big Harbour shows Guy''s story from shifting points of view, from Guy to bookish Pam to the schoolteacher Alison. The narrative is populated by a host of lively characters, such as second cousin Ronald, who regularly delivers "fresh deersteak and a two-litre pop bottle filled with holy water" to Pam''s house. There are drinkers and fighting drunks and bitter ex-alcoholics, including those who attend the inappropriately named Alcoholics Anonymous program at the monastery. Isadore''s coaching helps Guy stand up for himself, and in the end he must stand up against Isadore in order to make something of his life. His survival of a hard adolescence makes for a heroism all his own.

Saints of Big Harbour handles the bleak subjects of violence, addiction, small-town mentalities and destructive families with insight, irony and humour, in a compellingly accessible style reminiscent of Roddy Doyle.

About the Author

“What I look for in writing is something that is really multi-faceted, that’s able to depict life in all its wonder and absurdity at the same time.” Coady was nominated for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction for her stunning debut novel, Strange Heaven . She received the CAA / Air Canada Award for most promising writer under 30, and the Dartmouth Book and Writing Award for Fiction. Her collection of short stories Play the Monster Blind spent 27 weeks on the National Post Best Seller list, and was a finalist for Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour and for the Rogers Writers Trust Fiction Prize. Her articles, reviews and short stories have appeared in anthologies and magazines across Canada including Chatelaine , This magazine and Saturday Night . She has given readings across the country. Born in 1970, Lynn Coady grew up in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, in the town of Port Hawkesbury which, she has said, combined the pollution of an industrial town with the fishbowl qualities of a rural one, where everyone knows one another’s business. She didn’t think like everybody else -- “For a long time I thought I was insane.” When she started out writing, literary influences such as David Adams Richards showed her it was possible to write meaningfully about Maritime communities. However, the stories she read about Cape Breton were elegiac and rural, dominated by heroic men; hers were different experiences, and she would create what Georgia
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Editorial Reviews

"The violent colours of small-town life in Saints of Big Harbour are overlaid with a sheen of weird tenderness and wry humour. Coady takes us to the depths of isolation where her groping characters fight their loneliness with booze, brawls and self-delusion. Compelling and complex, this book is a page-turning delight." -- Eden Robinson, author of Monkey Beach

"Coady swerves with a hardy veteran's knowing … the artful details and nuance of Coady's renderings of the archetypal dilemma confirm that her work is among the most noteworthy in the country." -- National Post

"Coady has a lively talent, writing with curiosity and warmth about the heartrending tangles of human connection." -- The Globe and Mail

"It's a miracle when a book as good as Lynn Coady's comes along. Saints of Big Harbour is as good as it gets. . . . A masterpiece of comic hysteria . . . bitterly funny . . . the inventive, energetic writing grips you by the neck and hauls you into the world of Big Harbour." -- The Calgary Herald

"Lynn Coady is a brilliant new voice in Canadian literature." -- David Adams Richards, author of Mercy Among the Children

"Lynn Coady has created two of the more memorable characters in recent Canadian fiction. . . . Amazing." -- The Toronto Star

"Lynn Coady is the best young writer in Canada." -- The Gazette (Montreal)

Bookclub Guide

1. "Marianne watched her brother with the eyes of Big Saint Anne, with all the bottomless compassion of an embarrassed saint… She stopped watching, thinking: This is why the saints all look away from us in church, why they can never meet your eye. It's mortifying, to feel so much pity." (p.401) Who are the saints of Big Harbour?

2. Corinne can tell by looking at Guy that he's 'not from around here'. The other character who's not from there is Alison Mason, the man with the girl's name. Each is accepted so long as they follow the local rules. Saints of Big Harbour explores the pressure on men to conform. How does the setting enhance this theme?

3. The structure of the novel is inspired by Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, with its diverse voices, and Carson MacCuller's The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, with its multitudinous perspectives within a single community. How does this affect the storytelling?

4. Television is a recurring theme. What do you think the author is saying about it?




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