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This article was published 12/11/2010 (2326 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Autumn, One Spring
By Patti Grayson
Turnstone Press, 321 pages, $19
Bring on the dead moose close-up! Fans of rural sitcoms like Northern Exposure and Corner Gas will get a big kick out of Manitoban Patti Grayson's first novel Autumn, One Spring, about a woman in her early 20s returning to her small-town home.
This comic story of a wedding about to be blown to smithereens by unwanted guests, such as Autumn Greene and her lust child, takes place during the week of the 1986 Chernobyl explosion. Ka-Boom! On both sides of the world.
Autumn aims her truck down the highway from Winnipeg to Hermatite, a fictional mining town in northwestern Ontario. She takes along with her two other uninvited guests who've found out about her sister's wedding but did not get an ivory invitation.
Autumn, One Spring is told in the first person, as though Autumn is recording her story in a giant diary. It could easily jumpstart a season's TV shows with its colourful characters and lake-and-evergreen settings.
Winnipeg is the nearest city, and the present home of Autumn and her daughter Sara, so city readers also get pleasant jolts of recognition.
Grayson's previous effort was the 2004 short-story collection Core Samples. But Autumn, One Spring is a chick-lit page-turner both humorous and sensual in its style.
Autumn's thoughts on a kiss? "There was just the right amount of moisture, a nice wavy pressure as it progressed. A hint of tongue. And a citrusy scent to it, a mixture of aftershave and environment ... and it managed to post a danger sign complete with flashing beacon."
The novel goes on about 25-per-cent too long, as Grayson scrambles to get so many subplots in order.
Each character is interesting, and we want to hear more about how their challenges turn out for them, but this one book shouldn't have to encompass it all.
Still, one hopes this ends up as a television series. With white and aboriginal extended families mixing, unlimited God's country settings, an officious cop, dangerous wild animals, fed-up city transplants, town gossips, weather emergencies and odd romantic pairings, it fits a formula we've known and loved before.
Unfortunately, the novel contains irritating refrains. Autumn continually comments on her own feelings and thoughts in the third person, as in "Too much deviated thought, Autumn." And, her love interest, her former high school teacher, regularly makes up superhero slogans, like "Holy widowed wombs, Batman."
But the main characters are otherwise sensitively drawn and multi-faceted. The ending is pure screwball comedy, and the reader will put down the book feeling satisfied and sorry to say goodbye to Hematite's cock-eyed crew.
Raised in small-town Manitoba, Maureen Scurfield writes the Miss Lonelyhearts column for the Winnipeg Free Press.