Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Book Review: 'I Have Demons' by Christopher Adam

I Have Demons by Christopher  Adam

‘As he noticed her thinning hair, he reflected, I thought that only happened to men.’

Canadian author Christopher Adam was born in Montreal, moved to Budapest, Hungary in the 90s, then returned to Canada for his undergraduate studies in history and English literature at Concordia University, continued graduate studies at Carleton, and earned his PhD in history at the University of Ottawa. He edits two award-winning online publications offering analysis and commentary on current affairs in Europe, works in the non-governmental organization sector, and teaches and writes. He lives in Ottawa.

Christopher states in his Preface, ‘I Have Demons shines the spotlight on people who, in different ways, live on the margins — the overlooked elderly woman who gets her thrill pocketing stir sticks and coffee creamer; the jaded parish priest tending to the needs of a man holding a terrible secret; and the small-town Ontario student struggling with the very real possibility that his undergraduate degree in literature is a ticket to poverty…Fractured, often unsatisfying human relationships run through the three stories in this collection. And the human relationship with the Divine is tenuous too. In different ways and taking divergent paths, the characters in each of the stories are in search of redemption. Ottawa is often synonymous with the federal government, policy wonks, political spin doctors, foreign diplomats, as well as the negative stereotypes of dull stability and mediocrity that haunt government towns. For many, Ottawa is mostly Parliament Hill and the tight political world north of Highway 417. The stories in this collection, however, explore the city’s peripheries — both geographic and social. The people in these narratives are not affluent and, on the surface, they wield little power. Often, they are forgotten and isolated. Ottawa’s landscape lends itself particularly well to exploring the world of the peripheries and of isolation. Beyond the small downtown core of Centretown and the ByWard Market, a handful of adjacent historic neighbourhoods and sprawling suburbia, Ottawa is a vast, sparsely populated land of forests and quiet rural communities on the border between English and French Canada. In these stories, the greenbelt, wilderness and rural life serve various purposes. They are at once places of refuge, sources of redemption, reminders of childhood and innocence, as well as symbols of loneliness and alienation. The people who inhabit or journey to and from these lands in my stories seek both to escape — and at times return — and find comfort.’

Three stories in this impressive volume are ‘An Alphine Lodge Special’(A lonely pensioner spends a Thanksgiving she’ll never forget at a local diner, served by an acerbic waitress who has finally found her ticket out of there), ‘I Have Demons’ (A jaded young priest of a dwindling parish faces a man with a terrible secret), and ‘David and Franco’ (A recent university graduate from small-town Ontario leaves home with nothing to his name but the hope of a new life in the city and places all his trust in a charismatic yet dubious life coach). Each story is well-conceived and writing with eloquent lyrical prose. Christopher allows the conversational language to match his characters – raw at times but appropriately so, and his characters are so convincingly and thoroughly sculpted that with each persona there is a hint of ourselves to consider. Christopher Adam is a master writer and he will be an author to follow closely. Highly recommended. 

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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