November 14, 2019

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Searching for drive

Canadian humorist makes par in new novel about bored golf prodigy

Imagine if you used science to learn that you were destined to excel at a certain activity — an activity that would make you wealthy beyond your wildest dreams. But, imagine that activity holds no interest for you.

Welcome to the moral dilemma of Terry Fallis’s seventh novel, Albatross.

Tim Fallis</p><p>Author Terry Fallis examines predestination and self-fulfilment in his new novel, Albatross.</p>

Tim Fallis

Author Terry Fallis examines predestination and self-fulfilment in his new novel, Albatross.

When we meet protagonist Adam Coryell, he is a 17-year-old high school student with dreams of becoming a writer, coupled with another goal: to get to know Allison, the new girl in class. But Adam’s life is forever changed with he meets his new homeroom teacher, Ms. Bobbie Davenport.

Fallis is a two-time winner of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, and has penned six previous national bestselling novels. The Best Laid Plans was the winner of the Leacock Medal for Humour in 2008, and CBC’s Canada Reads in 2011. His last novel, One Brother Shy, was released in 2017.

With so many novels to his credit, Fallis has become adept at creating humble and humorous Canadian characters. There are a few additional plot strategies in his writing formula, including the use of irony, quick-witted banter and humble "aw shucks" male characters. Fallis often showcases respect for women in his writing, and Albatross features two fierce females: Bobbie (the mentor) and Allison (the girlfriend).

Bobbie asks Adam and a few other students if she can record some measurements to test out a sports theory by a Swedish professor. She measures the students and uses the professor’s body-type analysis formula to discover that Adam scores in the top percentile for being a golf phenom.

Bobbie and the reluctant Adam hit the links to test out the professor’s theory that every human can excel in at least one sport. After some very basic instruction, Adam is, naturally, a natural. But he has zero interest in golf.

Golf lovers will laugh and cringe throughout much of Albatross. "I just didn’t like golf that much," Adam says. "It took a very long time to play and didn’t seem to accomplish anything particularly redeeming or constructive."

While Adam masters golf, his journey of self-discovery also plays through, as he maps out his life goals while wrestling with fame and fortune at a young age. Bobbie is a pivotal guide, helping him navigate the golf world, while also understanding his ultimate destiny. Her role is so central in Adam’s story that her character deserves to be more fully realized.

But Fallis is on point with his vivid observations. He shares this description of Bobbie in a happy moment: "(She) was off-camera, on the other side of the room, with a smile that two root canals and a funeral could not have extinguished."

Albatross exposes some essential truths, such as the fundamental importance of following your own path. Interspersed with Fallis’s trademark quick wit and a calm, Canadian perspective, love and grief are also explored, in addition to some timely issues; women in golf, the importance of public libraries, the influence of media and using celebrity to create something positive are current topics that keep Albatross fresh.

Deborah Bowers is a marketing and communications professional and committed golfer. So much so, she enjoys playng nine holes, followed by a glass of wine.

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