May 26, 2020

Winnipeg
17° C, Partly cloudy

Full Forecast

Help us deliver reliable news during this pandemic.

We are working tirelessly to bring you trusted information about COVID-19. Support our efforts by subscribing today.

No Thanks Subscribe

Already a subscriber?

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Logger copes with fractured family

You either love it or hate it — that’s just the way life is in the now-derelict logging town of Black River. Joe Adler, a third-generation logger, loves it. To his surprise, he discovers that Sarah, his wife of several years, hates it.

"Motherhood, for her, was a death sentence. She’d had dreams, ambitions, then found herself tied to a young man that she may or may not love, and a baby on the way. She was too good a person to hate the child so she hated me and loved the child," Joe says.

In Things Worth Burying, Toronto author Matt Mayr, who grew up in a small northern Ontario mining town, digs deep into the dysfunctional family in which Joe grew up, at the same time creates a window revealing the beauty of the rugged northern Ontario bush.

The accidental death of Dan Lacroix, a man working for Joe, is the trigger for Sarah to split; she heads to Toronto to take a writing course, trying to find herself, leaving Joe to care for their seven-year-old daughter Anna. This sets the stage for Mayr to explore a series of complex love-hate relationships.

Joe’s mystical relationship with the land defines his approach to the world. "It’s the land that makes the person, never the other way around," he muses. Beauty and danger are opposite sides of the same coin in the wilderness: "This vast rugged land, beautiful from a distance, from inside your vehicle was an altogether different beast once the engine stopped and the sun went down. Death, out here, was measured in minutes and in small errors."

Joe’s parents fought all the time. His father never hit his mother, instead channeling his rage into alcohol consumption. Joe and his younger brother Thomas, who hates his mother, were terrified of their father. When the father dies, Joe wants to move on in the relationship with his mother. But "There were mountains of pain….all I could see in my mother’s eyes was sorrow and guilt, endless guilt." The problem with his father, she tells him, is that he "spent years searching for something out there in the bush and at the bottom of a bottle. "

It quickly becomes clear to Joe that Sarah, who is a rather cold character, has no intention of returning to Black River. She asks Joe and Anna to spend Christmas with her in Toronto; Joe reluctantly agrees. Sarah doesn’t want the responsibility for their daughter any more. Joe sees her relationship with Anna as "a selfish kind of love that says something like ‘you must love yourself before you can love others.’"

After Toronto, Sarah wants to go to a writing school on Vancouver Island to look for herself some more, and argues she will be a better, if only part-time, mother to Anna if she is happy. She tells Joe he should find another woman.

That he is already working on. When Anna left he hired Jenny Lacroix, Dan’s 25-year-old widow, to babysit Anna after school. Jenny, who has always accepted her role as a young mother in a small town as part of the natural order of things, is a much warmer character than Sarah.

Joe reaches out to his estranged brother Thomas, who reveals a dark family secret about his father and grandfather that has been tormenting him for decades. Thomas feared for his life when their father was around, and hated their mother because she did nothing to protect him.

Mayr’s three-dimensional characters capture working class life in a small town, a life many readers will remember, fondly or otherwise.

Gordon Arnold is a Winnipeg writer.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

By buying through links provided on this page, you are supporting local writers, reviewers and book sellers.

The Free Press would like to thank our readers for their patience while comments were not available on our site. We're continuing to work with our commenting software provider on issues with the platform. In the meantime, if you're not able to see comments after logging in to our site, please try refreshing the page.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us