Tag Archives: Linden MacIntyre

Linden MacIntyre, The Only Café

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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.

Reference:

MacIntyre, Linden. The Only Cafe. Random House, 2017.

Why Men Lie, Linden MacIntyre

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This novel continues the story of characters for the most part already encountered in The Long Stretch and The Bishop’s Man. The story moves between Toronto and Cape Breton and features the life trials of Father Duncan MacAskill, his sister Faye (Effie), a professor of Celtic Studies, and Effie’s former husbands (John and Sextus). Effie has a new love in her life, JC, who is also from Cape Breton but had been away working as a journalist in the US for many years. JC features prominently in this novel, especially his interest in a Canadian citizen on death row in Texas and his search for a daughter he fathered when he was a student. One plot line discusses Effie’s experienced of being stalked by a man she had briefly met in a cafe in Toronto.

Effie is still haunted by issues with her father which are often hinted about but never explicitly discussed (violence? incest?). This is mixed with another issue: the long term effects of all family members of post-traumatic stress disorder of former soldiers. MacIntyre also portrays the social transformations of Cape Breton Island with the construction of a land link, the migration of Cape Breton natives, the impacts of economic cycles in that region.

Effie’s trials with forming long term bonds also lead to the exploration of human attachments, and love in particular. Effie is quite uncomfortable with her daughter’s marriage to a much older man. JC’s work on the Canadian convict is related to an exploration of the sense of impotence, an inability to exercise one’s power, as opposed to a sense of adequacy and empowerment. In the end, JC dies from severe injuries sustained during a home invasion at Effie’s house in Cape Breton. Throughout the book, Father Duncan is conflicted about his commitment to the church and is mainly working at a homeless shelter in Toronto rather than being a parish priest.

I had liked The Bishop’s Man, but not so much The Long Stretch. Why Men Lie was an engaging read in part because of the familiarity of characters and landscapes. I am left wanting more closure at the end of it though, in a similar way as the other two.

References:

MacIntyre, Linden. Why Men Lie. Random House Canada, 2012.