In my head, I keep calling this book “The Other Café”; I have no idea why.
Young Cyril Cormier is a budding journalist. His father died under mysterious circumstances some years ago. Well, the body was never found until a bone and a piece of jewellery are recovered by some fishermen. Cyril inherits his father’s journals and starts looking into his past. Pierre Cormier, born Haddad in Lebanon, came to Canada as a refugee in the early 80s, shortly after the Sabra and Shatila massacre. We know from flashbacks in the book that he lost his family in the Damour massacre and was involved with a gang led by Elie Hobeika (he is a real historical figure). Once in Canada, he becomes a corporate lawyer. Some trouble with an intervention at a worksite in Indonesia leads him to take a long vacation on his boat in Cape Breton. The boat blows up and his body is never found. There are hints that he might still be alive and covered up his disappearance.
Information into the mystery of who was Pierre Cormier and how much his family did not really know him is distilled slowly and artfully. We follow Cyril in his difficult relationships with his mother and stepmother, his trouble with his girlfriend, his growing engagement with his new job and colleagues, his increasing obsession over what happened to his father and the role of Ari, the odd Israeli that his father used to meet at The Only Café. Cyril seems to be convinced that he is involved in his father’s disappearance.
While the father and son are quite well fleshed out as characters, I felt like the mother and stepmother, as well as some of the secondary characters such as Cyril’s friends and co-workers lacked a bit of substance. We know relatively little of their backstory and they only remained bare outlines in my mind. It is fine that the odd Israeli remains a bit of a mystery though…
I would like a sequel for this book, to get to know some of the characters better, to see different turns and twists in the developing relationships between Cyril and his coworkers, to see him evolve professionally, and to see new clues about Pierre Cormier’s life and death come to life.
Note: There is a place called The Only Café on Danforth in Toronto. It just doesn’t look like I imagined it from the book.
This book will be published in August 2017 and can be pre-ordered in both e-book and hard cover, here: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/545973/the-only-cafe-by-linden-macintyre/9780345812063/.
Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for advance access to this book.
MacIntyre, Linden. The Only Cafe. Random House, 2017.