VANDAL LOVE by D.Y. Béchard (Doubleday Canada), 341 pages, $29.95 cloth. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Within minutes of picking up this book, it becomes obvious that D.Y. Béchard - who has only one previous novel under his belt - has a huge command of language.
The mass migration of French Canadians into the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries serves as the backdrop for this imaginative tale about several generations of the Hervé family, cursed with the genetic quirk of producing offspring who are either giants or runts. Béchard subtly explores the gradual corrosion of French-Canadian culture and identity in the context of the Hervé lineage.
Rural Quebec in this era is depicted as a barren and oppressive land that compels many members of the family to escape across the border in search of opportunity, often embarking on individual pursuits to find a sense of belonging and a place to call home.
Jude moves to the Southern U.S. and becomes a fixture on the professional boxing circuit until he realizes he is fighting not out of sheer desire but to appease his promoter.
Isa is in a constant struggle for independence, running away from her father's home to enter into a platonic marriage with a lonely old man before breaking off all her ties and starting a new life.
Although Harvey lacks the physical attributes of many of his male ancestors, he experiences the most personal growth as he abandons all bodily pursuits and instead goes on a spiritual quest.
Yet whether they are broad or frail in stature, all the Hervé children are handicapped by their inability to connect with people in the outside world beyond an ephemeral or superficial level.
The author weaves his lyrical and image-rich prose through the pages of Vandal Love with the audacity of a virtuoso. Just two novels into his career, Béchard seems poised to walk among the giants of the Canadian literary scene.