What’s it all about?:
It is summer and the Canadian Rockies are on fire. As the forests blaze, Alan West heads into their shadows, returning from university to his grandfather’s home in the remote Kootenay Valley, where the man who raised him has suffered a heart attack. Confronting his own mortality, the tough and taciturn Cecil West has a dying request for his grandson: track down the father Alan has never known so that the old man can make peace with him.
And so Alan begins his search for the elusive Jack West, a man who skipped town before his son could walk and of whom his grandfather has always refused to speak. His quest will lead him to Archer, an old American soldier who decades ago went AWOL across the border into Canada. Archer has been carrying a heavy burden for many years, and through him Alan learns the stories of two broken families who came together, got too close, and then fell apart in tragic ways.
Ballistics is a remarkable first novel, about family ties and the wounds that can linger for generations when those relationships are betrayed.
What did I think?:
This is another of the debut Waterstones Eleven authors predicted for great things this year, please see my previous post HERE. The premise definitely sounded interesting, a man is searching for the father he has never known on the dying request of his grandfather who raised him from a baby. For some reason not known to the reader yet, Alan’s grandfather Cecil West and father Jack, have not spoken or seen each other for many years. Cecil hopes that by reaching out to his son at the end of his life he will dissolve the feud between them, and also allow his grandson to get to know his previously absent father. As expected however, there are many underlying and complicated issues present, not only between Cecil and his son, but tensions that have been festering for a while, involving an ex-soldier called Archer and his daughter Linnea, who becomes an integral part of the plot for all the men concerned.
Unfortunately, I’m finding it quite difficult to formulate my opinions on this novel. On the one hand, it is an excellent piece of writing, with a storyline that is both clever enough to hook you in, and intriguing enough to keep you reading. If I were perfectly honest though, I’d probably come to the conclusion that despite these factors, the book wasn’t quite my sort of thing. I thought it was interesting in the way that the author explored the different sort of relationships i.e. father to son, husband to wife, and between good friends, and what happens in each of this cases if the relationship goes sour, and feel the author accomplished this tremendously. The whole style of writing in general though was incredibly “blokey,” (sorry to sound sexist, but that’s how it made me feel!), and just wasn’t for me personally. I like to think that I read quite a wide range of material, and am neither prudish nor squeamish, but the balance of gun/car/fight talk tended to slant into overkill, and didn’t appeal to me. But to end on a positive note, the talent of the writing should not be under-estimated, and if you enjoy a story which analyses the fragility of human relationships this is definitely the book for you.
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):