Clever Cumyn

VIKING BRIDES by Richard Cumyn (Oberon), 148 pages, $15.95 paper. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNfor richard cumyn, coming.


VIKING BRIDES by Richard Cumyn (Oberon), 148 pages, $15.95 paper. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN

for richard cumyn, coming of age means many things. While some of the 10 stories in Viking Brides are literally about the move from childhood to adulthood — and often about the sexuality such a growth implies — others involve grown-ups who gain new understanding of their relationships and where they fit into a complex emotional web of family and friends.The setting of many of the tales is Clayton Township, near Ottawa, where high school students (past and present) and their teachers learn more about their lives outside than inside the classroom.

A Hungarian teen is mortified when his sister models his family’s line of lingerie, a math teacher gets involved in a possibly racist incident, an insurance agent watching a graduation exercise dreams of what might have been: these are all textured characters enriched by Cumyn’s humorous, tart writing and sense of poetry.

He has a way of insinuating unexpected details into a piece, catching our attention with tendrils of narratives that shoot up as sidelines to the main story. Not every tale works. In To Esker Bay For Viking Brides, about uranium prospectors in the bush who break free to party for a night, Cumyn paints only the surface of his characters. But more often he succeeds in making them real, by giving their actions and thoughts a glowing emotional resonance.Write Books at susanc@nowtoronto.com

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