Down Sterling Road by Adrian Kelly
Sparse descriptive phrases paint pictures.
Author's work springs from blending of Canadian and Scottish roots.
A loving son-father relationship permeates story of life in a small town. It could be located anywhere in Canada. The fact that it is set in Ontario is incidental.
The interaction between Jacob McKnight, grade schooler, whose twin brother Cailan was drowned, whose mother broke under the strain of the tragedy, and his father John, who climbed the dizzying heights from teen-age underground miner in Scotland to ambulance driver in the little Canadian town of Glanisberg, spans but a few brief years. During those years, conversations between father and son reveal the challenges faced by both in overcoming their losses.
John tries to bridge the years between them with stories that always start:
When I was a lad your age
Some nights Jacob sits up and tries to picture him. With the moppy blond hair he said he had, and his wee shorts and scraped knees. Goan down the fish shop for his chips, all wrapped up in newspaper. Sharing them with a pal.
His Dad has never lost his accent.
There is passing references to his service, marksman first class, with the Black Watch, to Cyprus, and even mention of the IRA creeps in.
Jacob's world is peopled with his schoolmates, Cracker, little Bobby with his ever-present puffer, Dean, the dominating bully, Bulldog Quinn, Danny St. Jacques, Alvy, two sirens-in-embryo, Gail and Melissa, the principal, Mr. Kazinski, and a host of others.
Central to his existence is his running. Training to run. Training to be a long-distance runner. Starting off each morning running down Sterling Road, coached all the way by his Dad, striving to match pace, go farther, shave seconds. Is it his own ambition, or his Dad's?
Red Deer, High River, Joe Clark, Pierre Trudeau, Vancouver, all are subjects in adult and school conversations. Ticklers of memories for all ages.
For novelty of style, authenticity in story telling, and wide ranging subject matter, Down Sterling Road is a first-rate first novel by an author destined to join the foremost ranks of Canadian writers.
Adrian Michael Kelly was born in Timmins, Ontario, and grew up in Campbellford. After taking his BA English at Trent and MA in English at Queen's, he lived in South Korea, Switzerland, and Italy. He completed his PhD back in Canada, and presently is a lecturer in English at Calgary University.
His grandfather hailed from Dunfanaghy, in Donegal, and his Scottish roots are founded in Fifeshire.
Down Sterling Road is his first novel. Publishers Coach House Books, Toronto. $21.95 and available at bookstores throughout Canada.
The author, gave a reading at Collected Works Bookstore 1242 Wellington Street, Ottawa, www.collected-works.com on Thursday 27 October 2005.
| Canadian Vindicator