ORIGIN OF HALOS by Kristen den Hartog (McClelland & Stewart), 338 pages, $34.99 cloth. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
One lie is never enough. Tell one and others are sure to follow. So Kay Clancy discovers when she lies about how she got pregnant.
Soon, she's fabricating more stories so she can get through her life as a mother of three and wife of Joe LeBlanc. He believes them all, which later leads him to an incident that changes his life and the family's.
Kristen den Hartog set the novel during the Trudeau era in six chapters, each revolving around the summer Olympics, from Rome 1960 through Moscow 1980. The games are a key theme - high school athlete Kay, a world-class gymnast, had to give up her Olympic aspirations after getting knocked up by her coach, while her second child Louis has talent and can't wait to join the five-ring circus.
Some of the ancient history den Hartog offers in order to riff on the Olympic motif is a little bit high school, and for those of us who lived through the 60s and 70s, there's more detail about the individual Olympics than we need.
But den Hartog writes with a crisp, nimble style and sharply draws some memorable characters. Fat boy Eddie, the weak-willed coach Ralph's son, has artistic flair but a budding cruel streak. How far will he take it? Ralph's emotionally unstable wife, Marie, is wracked by her knowledge of Ralph's secret. Who will she tell? And Kay's way-too-astute youngest child, Margar, abandoned by Joe just after she is conceived, desperately seeks a father figure and keeps seeing intruders invading her house at night. Are they real or imagined?
Such questions ramp up the tension in this intriguing and complex novel.