EXIT PAPERS FROM PARADISE by Liam Card (Dundurn), 236 pages, $19.99 paper. Rating: NN
Endings are the worst. A great premise, terrific characters and a page-turning story have to come to a crunch - how the hell am I going to end this thing?
Local scribe Liam Card wrecks a decent read by making the wrong choice in Exit Papers From Paradise, a novel that's crept into the top 19 on Kobo under Psychological. I can't reveal how he solves the age-old problem, but I'm tempted to suggest that you read all but the last 10 pages.
Isaac is a 30-something dreamer whose ambition to become a doctor was crushed 15 years earlier when his father, now wholly ungrateful, had a serious accident that forced his son to take over the plumbing business. Isaac still wants to go to medical school, so much so that he's almost encyclopedic on all things anatomical, hunting animals so he can perform post-mortem surgeries.
He can't wait to get out of his Michigan hometown, Paradise (clunky irony or what?). In the tiny town where everybody knows your name, it's hard to get any privacy, especially for a guy like Isaac who, scandalously, is dating the goth high schooler daughter of the town butcher.
The story is told through Isaac's first-person stream of consciousness, which occasionally veers into fantasy. The author employs a kind of safe word to let you know when what you've read isn't real.
Card has a dynamic, energetic style, but the very nature of stream of consciousness requires its protagonist to lack an internal editor. Sometimes Isaac's thoughts are misogynist and/or homicidal. That's not necessarily a problem in life - no one's thoughts are pure - but it makes it hard to root for him.
The key plot point is Isaac's application to the University of Michigan - will he get in? Which brings me to Card's final pages. Wish I hadn't gone there.