Thursday 27 October 2016

Book ~ "Advocate" (2016) Darren Greer

From Goodreads ~ When Jacob is called back to Advocate, he is not only returning home again, something he knows he cannot really do; he is going to face his dying grandmother and the people of the town who turned on one of their own.

Twenty years earlier, when his uncle David came home, it was to die. The response in Advocate was typical of most towns, large and small, in 1984: when his disease became known, Jacob, his grandmother, his mother and his aunt were shunned, turned out from school and their jobs, out of fear of an until-then unknown virus. 

Jacob lives in Toronto and is a counsellor, giving comfort and guidance to men living with AIDS.  He was born and raised in Advocate, a small town in Nova Scotia.  He has to head home when his mother informs him that his grandmother is dying.  He isn't close to his grandmother because of things that had happened in the past but his mother makes him go.

In 1984, Jacob was about ten and living with his mother, aunt and grandmother in Advocate.  His uncle, David, who had been living in Toronto, went home for a visit.  It turns out that David was sick and had returned home to die.  He had AIDS, a disease no one knew much about back then.  When the town discovered David's illness and fearing that they would be contaminated, David and his family were ostracized.  Until this point, Jacob's grandmother, the wife of a deceased doctor, had held a prominent position in the community.  She was old-school and rather than side with her family, she too had the same views as the town, which caused extreme tension within the house.  In addition, she refused to acknowledge the severity of David's illness.

This is the third book I've read by this author and I enjoyed it.  I liked the writing style.  It is written in first person perspective in Jacob's voice.  It's definitely not an upbeat story and I think the author did a excellent job in capturing the terror, confusion and misunderstanding of the unknown disease back in the 1980s when it was becoming known.

I liked the characters.  The events of 1984 scarred Jacob and still influence who he is today.  His mother and aunt were more open and with it and did all they can to take care of their big brother.  Their mother is a good representation of her generation in a small town.  She was a God-fearing Catholic and respected in her community.  She didn't understand why David couldn't have become a doctor or a lawyer and settled down with a wife and children ... it was against her beliefs that he would instead like other men.

I'm originally from Nova Scotia ... I lived in a small Catholic town in the 1980s about a half hour from "Advocate" so I could relate to the mentality and the people at that time.  I've known people who were similar in temperament, outspokenness, keeping their emotions hidden inside and worrying about what others would think.  Looking back, I know I would have been more open and non-judgmental as David's sisters were.

Darren Greer will be appearing at Toronto’s 2016 International Festival of Authors:

The 37th edition of Toronto’s International Festival of Authors (IFOA) is a celebration of words and ideas, of writers and readers.

In 2016, IFOA welcomes over 200 Canadian and international participants to Toronto. The Festival brings together the world’s best writers of contemporary literature for 11 days of readings, interviews, artist talks, round table discussions, public book signings and a number of special events. The IFOA takes place at the Harbourfront Centre, where the city meets the lake, from October 20th to the 30th.


Buried In Print said...

Which others of his have you read, Teena? I really loved Still Life with June so I wasn't surprised to be pulled by the heart into this novel through Jacob's voice. One of my favourite aspects of the story was how true to life the grandmother's character felt. It's very interesting to me that you've lived in this part of the country and found it credible; even though I haven't, the small-town judgements rang true for me as well. (And I especially loved the way that he handled that towards the end of the novel, so it was believable but not exhaustively negative either, how things turn out at the end of her life.) So glad you found this a worthwhile read!

Teena in Toronto said...

I enjoyed his other two books.

Buried In Print said...

I've missed at least one other of his novels, but now I'm keen to fill the gap. I did enjoy his essay collection, especially the bookish bits.

Thanks so much, for participating in the IFOA Blog Tour, Teena!