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I truly confess that I am not a dog person.

The Last Half of the Year

I like everything about The Last Half of the Year [Killick Press].

I like the cover picture which is basically the interior of a retro car. Although I haven’t a notion in my noggin what model car is shown, I’m sure there are those who will know at a glance.

The thing I like best about the cover picture is the bird’s nest on the floor. Three eggs are…well, nestled in the nest. One egg is broken on the floor mat.

Of course, in the novel there is some dandy use of broken eggs symbolism to underscore the author’s theme — that the struggle of being born damn near kills you or something like that. You’ll have to sort out the particulars.

I like this book’s print and margins.

You might think print size and colour density doesn’t matter but it does. Faded grey print shrunken to the size of a malnourished gnat is a strain on aged eyes, especially myopic ones suffering from incipient cataracts and some medical condition called — get this — vitreous separation.

To be commendable, margins must be wide — top, bottom, down the sides — with plenty of room for the reader to insert doodles and notes and Happy Faces when some humorous detail tickles him.

Speaking of Happy Faces…

… author Paul Rowe — one of the Point Verde Rowes —  gets a bold marginal Happy Face for a joke that I’m sure he wrote while chuckling to himself, p’raps even exclaiming “Ha!” when he snapped the end punctuation in place.

You know I won’t recap the joke but Rowe delivers it in relation to a character with the unlikely [?] name of Elvis Murphy. J

I like this book’s length.

It’s the perfect length, eh b’ys?

Two hundred pages.

Fewer pages might cause potential readers to wonder if they would get their money’s worth. More than two hundred pages — okay, with a shuff, two-fifty or three hundred — can be getting a tad long-winded, especially…

…especially if the print is miniscule and ashen, the margins are as narrow as the skeletal frame of a skin-and-bones model, and interminable paragraphs spread wall-to-wall like freshly nailed gyproc.

What?

Yes, certainly I like the story. Sure, that’s the most important element.

Here’s a synopsis. Seventeen year old Jason Dade whose name contains the letters of — get a load of this — the last half of the year: J-July; A-August; S-September and so on, is on a quest for his own Holy Grail.

In Jason’s case, the grail is his identity, his Self. His quest begins in Birthlayn, takes him to North City and eventually to a place where identities might be found, braced up and made whole or lost forever in chaos.

Along the way, Jason meets…

…but before that while he was still Little Jasie Dade, he helped his mother ball up her knitting yarn: “He always sat patiently as his mother unwound skein after skein of yarn from his thin tired arms.”

Hey, Jasie’s a boy I can relate to because I’ve been there more than once and I’ve worn the worsted sweater to prove it.

Ha!

Think of the broken bird’s egg mentioned earlier and its suggestion that the struggle to arrive on this planet is necessary to prepare us for the life’s conflicts. Time and again, Jason finds himself in situations that mould his identity, some of them as constricting as crucibles — or eggshells — that leave him…

…at least in one case, “…screaming at the top of his lungs.”

It’s Regatta Season as I scribble. The Placentia Regatta — which, by the way, Little Jasie Dade attends in thinly-disguise Princeton — is over; the Harbour Grace Regatta is over; the St. John’s Regatta is days away.

So what?

When Little Jasie Dade attended the regatta he eventually was bursting to pee — “A thing he achieved by running as far as he could into an open meadow and, in full view of the milling crowd, just doing it.”

Peeing in the open was fine for Jasie. It was an earlier time, long before those disgusting Porta-Potties were invented.

Imagine Jasie grown to be an old man…at the regatta. He’s bursting to pee and Porta-Potties are simply too disgusting. It would be much too unseemly for him to run into an open meadow and answer the call.

What is Jasie to do?

Here’s the hope for Jasie: “Jasie, my son, may you never have prostate problems.”

Ha!

There is still time for you to read The Last Half of the Year in the last half of this year. Go for it.

Thank you for reading.

—   Harold Walters lives Happily Ever After in Dunville, in the only Canadian province with its own time zone. How cool is that? Reach him at ghwalters663@gmail.com

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