Ten Minutes after writing this review I found out that Mercy Among the Children had been the first to get voted off the table. What an upset!
In the interest of broadening my literary range and exposing myself to more Canadian talent, I decided to read the selections from CBC’s Canada Reads 2009. After thoroughly enjoying Mercy Among the Children, I was anxious and excited to move on to the next book, to see if there was any chance that David Adams Richards could be defeated. Unless Canadians have collectively lost their marbles, there is certainly no danger of this happening with Fruit.
Life can be difficult at thirteen, and for Peter Paddington there is no exception. In fact things are worse for him as he is more than fifty pounds overweight, struggling with his sexuality, and – this is the real kicker – wakes up one morning to find that his nipples have transformed in to what look like maraschino cherries, that, to make matters worse, spontaneously start talking to him. That’s right, you didn’t read that wrong, talking nipples. The inclusion of this bizarre aspect to the story was the point of no return for my attention span, I’m afraid. Since the conversations his nipples would instigate were of an antagonizing nature, I can only assume that this was meant to signify his body’s betrayal of him, a feeling common to many people struggling with their weight. Clever, I suppose, but a little too bizarre in my opinion.
There were some redeeming qualities to the story though, as Peter was often extremely creative and witty. His habits of asserting himself through mental telepathy, worshiping the Virgin Mary through his closet door frame, and concocting homo-erotic bedtime stories to help lull him to sleep at night, had me giggling. On the flipside, Fruit is riddled with cliché, and most of the characters are the epitome of common stereotypes. There’s the Italian family… with the kitchen in their basement, who own a restaurant, with a daughter that works at said restaurant whilst tending to the household chores and minding the ripening tomatoes, and while she does all this, her Camaro driving brother is given free reign to do whatever he pleases, as he is the apple of his non-English speaking parent’s eyes. The clichés continued with fervor in the overbearing, menopausal mother with the Protestant inferiority complex, and all of the school cliques; goody-goodies, (head) bangers, athletic group, slutty girls group, et cetera, et cetera. It soon becomes apparent that this typecasting must be part of the author’s shtick, his way of exposing the conventions of everyday existence, I’m guessing.
Before reading Fruit I had heard from quite a few people that they had enjoyed it, so I suppose I could be missing something. From what I gather, it’s a story about becoming an active member in your own life, and that, to me, is an important message. However, Brian Francis’ lack of capture and the endless cliché left a lot to be desired.
Now it’s on to The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant by Michel Tremblay!