Today I Learned It Was You / Edward Riche
Toronto: Anansi, c2016.
I really wanted to like this odd little book more than I did. I thought it was a clever premise, funny in parts, and intriguing in some of its ideas. And that beautiful cover! But the voice of the book didn't catch me fully, and so I felt as if I were reading it from a bit of a distance.
The set-up is that a man has decided to live wild in a city park; rumours abound that there is a man transitioning into a deer. Local politicians, animal rights activists, police and various locals all get into the act, with this situation serving as the impetus to changes in many lives.
Like the academic infighting found in many university-set books, this one features lots of infighting within a local city council. Small town politics offers a lot to satirize, and Riche has fun with it.
He also satirizes a few other areas, like aforesaid animal rights activists as well as social media, and it doesn't always work for me. Sometimes satire just comes across as meanness, especially if it is about a topic you as a reader have a connection with. And somehow, the most eccentric and silly characters always seem to be female.
I also felt that many characters were mostly ciphers, and the ending was inconclusive and felt unfinished. An issue I've had with many "humorous" novels is that my sense of what's funny is so different from an author; this is another of those situations.
But it's still a lighthearted read with some serious undertones. With Newfoundland as a setting, the idea of wilderness, a man/deer, starving artists, a former hockey star as current mayor, and Tim Horton's all rolled in to the story it certainly has its Canlit cred. It was generally well-received, even making it onto a Canada Reads longlist.
But it wasn't the book for me; I found it pleasant enough reading, but, well, forgettable in the end.