Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Silent child hears everything in enthralling tale

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YOU'VE probably heard the sound of falling rain, but have you heard the raging torrent in every raindrop? Or the sound of fog rolling in from miles away? Or flowers growing?

Bonaventure Arrow, the protagonist of this supernatural-themed American debut novel, has heard these things and many others, for he is blessed with superhuman hearing.

Set in 1950s Louisiana, The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow is reminiscent of many Stephen King novels. Not only does it deal with the unexplained, but Chicago-based author Rita Leganski gives each chapter a cliffhanger ending.

It also brings to mind Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones, about a recently deceased person in their own personal afterlife.

Bonaventure Arrow's super hearing is also the curse he carries, because his world is a silent one. He's mute, but not a deaf mute -- quite the opposite in fact.

When he was born he made no sound whatsoever. He heard, though; he heard the doctors breathing and he heard his father talking, even though he had been killed a month before by an unknown drifter known only as the Wanderer.

So it was that Bonaventure Arrow had to grow up without a father, a trait he shared with both his parents. Yet he had two grandmothers to dote on him, both religious fanatics.

One was a devout Catholic who secretly baptized Bonaventure without his mother's knowledge. The other was a southern Baptist who forsook the church for a revivalist's tent. Or more specifically the carnal pleasures of the revivalist preacher in a small motel behind the gospel tent.

Both grandmothers, however, harboured dark secrets, secrets that threatened to tear the family apart, secrets that would come to have a big impact on the young Bonaventure as he grew up.

And the Wanderer, too, what secrets did he bear? A war veteran with half his jaw missing, he suffered from what would now be known as post-traumatic stress disorder. Even though the police caught him, he had no identification and no memory of who he was.

Young Bonaventure was ostracized at kindergarten, erroneously accused of peeking while a pumpkin was being hidden. He didn't look, but didn't need to, like the others searching for it he couldn't see it, but he could hear it. He could hear the colour of orange.

As he grows, Bonaventure discovers that his mission is to help his father fulfil his three challenges in order to bring peace to the family. For this he needs help and finds it in the kindred spirit of Trinidad Prefontaine, the daughter of an insane woman who worked as an assistant to a back street abortionist in New Orleans.

Trinidad has the "Knowing" and can communicate not only with Bonaventure but with his father too and help unlock those long-repressed secrets.

The story keeps you enthralled as each new page seems to offer up new questions that beg answers. Leganski's meticulous attention to the details of the plot provides answers in a revealing and entertaining fashion.

 

Trevor Smith is a research technician at the University of Manitoba and a community journalist.

 

The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow
By Rita Leganski
HarperCollins, 374 pages, $17

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 2, 2013 J8

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