"Percival, old bean, I'm afraid we're done like kippers!"
My lovely CBC Radio told me politely, when I woke one morning, that King Leary was the 2008 Canada Reads winner. On picking it up I saw that it had also won the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour. I was a bit surprised about that, because I would have expected the Canada Reads winner to be....I don't know, heavier, maybe.
On the day that I took my four year-old daughter to a pediodontist to be sedated, gassed, shot with novocaine and have drill bits taken to her front teeth, I started King Leary in the waiting room. But I only got a chapter read before I realised I was doing a totally inappropriate amount of laughing. Other, less relaxed parents were looking at first amused, then suspicious, then disapproving as my grins became snickers, then my snickers became chortles, then my chortles became guffaws.
In Grade 4 I was asked to leave a classroom because it was "silent reading" time and, as I was highly amused by my book, I was not being silent enough for Miss Floral Print Dress. She said "Shannon, please go into the hall until you can control yourself". As much as I resented it at the time, I can't help but appreciate the lesson I learned, which stood me in good stead on the day I started reading King Leary.
After I left the waiting room, I devoured as much of this book as I possibly could. Between kids, family, cooking and dishes, I managed it in a couple of days. I went around for quite some time afterwards, thinking about it.
This is another book that is one thing at the start, and another at the end. The title character, Percival "King" Leary, is a former hockey star withered and aged and living in a nursing home. He is a faithful and evangelising drinker of Canada Dry ginger ale. He gets a call one day from an ad agent wanting him to do a ginger ale commercial in Toronto, for a whopping "ten thou". During his journey to Toronto and the few days he spends there, he relives his memorable and coloured past in a series of flashbacks that, as the pages turn, begin to replace his current reality.
I like flashback novels, especially when they're written in the first person. After I've read one, I spend hours pondering one question: is the narrator telling the truth? There's never a satisfactory answer to this, of course, which is the whole point. As my homeopath says, "Facts don't really matter. Your perception is what's important."
The narrative voice is very keen. It's consistent, and it's grounded. King Leary could be sitting there, on the other end of the bench at the mall, telling you something interesting, some 60 year-old story, that still lives and breathes behind his thick glasses. He's boastful and adamant, wry and stubborn. He forgets, and remembers, and thinks for a second that you are his nephew.
"To Keep a Boy Out of Hot Water, Put Him on Ice"
Definitely, definitely pick this up. And let me know what you think of it...just don't blame me if you get kicked out of class for laughing too loudly.
HalfSoled Boots' New, Highly Specialised, Book Rating System
King Leary Gets the Following:
Given to Others? Yes