A Boy of Good Breeding
Reviewed: October 2, 2007
By: Miriam Toews / narrated by Ruth McIntosh
Publisher: BTC Audio Books
3 CDs, 4 hours, $29.95
The “boy” of the title is Hosea Funk, mayor of Algren, the smallest town in Canada. Any smaller than its current 1500 souls and it would be a hamlet; any larger and other places would be smaller. Obviously the rules for such designations are different in Manitoba than they are in the Yukon.
In a narrative that weaves back and forth in time we learn how Hosea was conceived through a chance meeting of his mother, Euphemia, and a cowboy just passing through (he did say Ôthank you’), a man that was, she told Hosea years later on her death bed, the once and future Prime Minister of Canada.
Now, the PM had announced that this year, on July 1, he would be paying a personal visit to the smallest town in Canada, and Hosea was determined that this was the time he would make himself known to his father. But that depended on the numbers - and they kept changing. People died, kids were born, people moved out, people moved in. It was all so confusing that Hosea had a tally all set down in a Hilroy scribbler in his office.
To add to his difficulties, Hosea’s love life, which was very late getting started, is going to well that Lorna, his lover, is pregnant and wants to move to Algren to live with him. It’s hard for him to explain that he’s delighted but that she has to wait until after July 1
Three of Hosea’s other random numbers are Knute (Noot) Corea-McCloud, her daughter Summer Feelin’ and S.F.’s wandering dad, Max, who had taken off for Europe four years earlier, before S.F. was born. Most of their part of this story is from Knute’s point of view and, in this reading, the split between the two major plot lines felt more evenly distributed than it did in the novel when I read it 9 years ago.
Knute has come home from Winnipeg to help her mother, Dory, look after her dad, Tom, who has had a stroke, and needs a lot of help getting back on his feet. In a book which is often quite funny, this sub-plot contains a lot of insights about the nature of the struggle one partner may have when an other becomes a different person through the agency of trauma or disease.
While A Boy of Good Breeding is often an irreverent romp through the silly things that can get in the way of some people’s lives, it is also an good read and has a lot of meat on its funny bones.