Strube reads at Hart House Library Tuesday (April 6). See Readings. Rating: NNNN
Be careful what you wish for. That's something Cordelia Strube's beleaguered protagonist, McKenna, discovers when she starts having dark thoughts. She's assuming nothing else can go wrong. She's already lost her house after a truck blasts its way through it. A head injury has made her colour blind - a career-threatening injury for a professional hair colourist. She's had to hole up in a seedy motel with her brilliant and moody eight-year-old daughter, Logan. And Logan's sex-addicted dad keeps showing up and disappearing, adding to the family's already deep sense of uncertainty.
This smart, sometimes disturbing story is dripping with drama. Scenes that describe McKenna driving her daughter as her sight deteriorates are tension-packed. And when McKenna purchases a baseball bat, we never know who's going to end up on the other end of it. But Strube's dry humour makes the intensity bearable, and she creates full characters whose desperation always makes sense.
In Logan, we have another wonderful, brainy young girl (Madelaine in Ann-Marie Macdonald's The Way The Crow Flies is the other. Is this a literary trend?) who knows too much - she has an ecological critique for just about every daily task - and her powers of perception are too strong for her own good.
McKenna, a former drug addict with unresolved anger issues and a fierce and beautiful love for her daughter, is a vivid working-class hero.
And with Strube's excellent ear for dialogue, you get a very clear sense of what goes on in a beauty salon. You can start by assuming that if you're a client, the staff is talking about you.
Powerful, funny and moving.
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BLIND NIGHT by Cordelia Strube (Thomas Allen), 309 pages, $32.95 cloth. Rating: NNNN