"The Wise And Foolish Virgins"

The Wise And Foolish Virgins by Don Hannah

This is the second of Hannah's novels I've read, but it is the first one he wrote. Neither leave any doubt as to his story-telling abilities. As soon as you begin reading he grabs your attention with such realism that it's more like watching real people live real lives than reading a book. What a wonderful talent this writer has.

The setting is small town New Brunswick on Canada's east coast. The authour was raised in the area and knows it well, so local details are plentiful and accurate. A Maritimer myself, I love reading books set in my home province.

The story follows four main characters as their lives gradually become increasingly tangled up in each other. There is Margaret, a middle aged single woman, survivor of abuse, living with her sister, Minnie, one of the most annoying (and familiar) characters I've ever read. Then there is Gloria, still living at home with her parents, working as a house cleaner and trying to get her three brothers home for a family reunion none of them want. Chaleur is a teenage boy agonizing over his girlfriends decision to get an abortion and in a strange twist later finds himself the victim of unlawful confinement. The perpetrator of this crime is Sandy, an aging, tortured man living alone after the mother he'd nursed for years passes away. Sandy is.....odd.

All of these characters and many others are portrayed with all the gritty reality you'd ever want. Nothing is romanticized; all the sad, sweet, mean, funny and horrible things human beings do to each other are a part of this story. This is about as real as it gets and I love that about Hannah's character's. I love that I recognize them. I don't love all the cursing or the weird sexual stuff. I realize those things are part of what makes these characters and their stories so real and I know I'm very old fashioned when it comes to these things, but there you have it. I'll never get used to it because I don't want to, even it does reduce the enjoyment I get out of reading some really great books. Like this one.

The thing I enjoy most about Don Hannah's writing is its naturalness. In both The Wise And Foolish Virgins and Ragged Islands it's as though instead of just writing them he breathes the stories out  There is an even rhythm that you never have to stop and think about; for the reader it's a lovely experience.

All in all a great story and great writing, with the one caveat of strong language. My favorite line from the book?  "A shining future was behind him."  A sad fact of life for so many of us and a perfect example of Hannah's capacity for poignant authenticity.


Post a Comment