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The Friends of Meager Fortune (2006)

by David Adams Richards

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1523149,026 (3.98)14
"It's the mid-twentieth century and the Canadian lumber industry is dying. Only men who are strong in body and spirit, men like Will Jameson, can lead the expeditions to harvest timber in the perilous mountain landscape. But when Will dies in a tragic accident, it falls to his younger brother, Owen, to take command." "Recently returned from military duty, Owen watches his war-hero status quickly fade as he becomes entangled in a triangle between Reggie, the man he saved on the battlefield, and Reggie's wife Camellia, the woman he desires. As the town turns against him and the logging expedition becomes more treacherous, Owen seems trapped in a destiny full of betrayal, love, envy, and jealousy."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)
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There are few writers I admire as much as I do David Adams Richards. His books are deeply morale and compassionate. His prose has echoes and rhythms you rarely see these days -- there is something of the King James version of the Bible in his language. I read a few reviews that panned the book because the reviewer found the language 'difficult'. Good Lord, is that what we've come to? So sad. I, for one, fell into every sentence, in this book as I have in the other books of Richards I've read. Yes, this is a hard book, in that it is hard subject matter about hard men (with surprisingly vulnerabilities), in a hard world (that of 1950s logging camps), doing unspeakably hard work. It is also a hard book to put down, a hard book to forget, a hard book (I admit it) not to weep over.

I won't go into the plot of the book, you can read the flap copy for that. But I will say that Richards explores his familiar themes -- what makes a person 'good' (I am reminded of Iris Murdoch, who was once asked what themes she wrote about; she responded, "I only ever write about one thing: how to be good."), what brings about someone's downfall, and how we are all, in one way or another, connected, complicit, responsible for our neighbors, those "friends of Meager Fortune." Meager Fortune, by the way, is the BRILLIANT name of one of the characters.

Perhaps Richards himself sums up the theme of this book best in a line Fortune speaks: ". . . men have rid themselves of God, and are famished, and therefore do terrible things to make such famine go away." And later, "Another scandal started because of our famine. To fill up our souls with the trinkets of life, instead of with life itself." Has the word 'trinket' ever felt so perfect, sound so tinny and cheap and worthless?

The world Richards creates -- as always -- that of the Miramachi region of Canada's New Brunswick Province, this time the world of mid-twentieth century loggers, is perfect -- every smell, sound, sight, taste and touch. It is a harsh and heartbreaking and filled with a thousand it-might-have-beens. He's a brave writer -- tackling complex themes, and expecting his reader to be able to rise to the occasion. For all of that, I was completely wrapped up in the story, turning pages fast, and staying up long past my bedtime to find out what happens next.

It is, in short, a book I wish I'd written myself, and certainly one which will inspire me. ( )
1 vote Laurenbdavis | Aug 19, 2011 |
Hard story for the Logging industry in Canada. Hard men hard story. Sad and certainly not sugar coated. The best people have sad ends, and the worst people end up OK. The Jameson family's son, Owen gets accused of killing a friend falsely, due to rumor and innuendo. An absorbing and well written book, in the third person ( )
1 vote ColinHolloway | Dec 8, 2009 |
I haven't read anything else by Richards, but this book was amazing if just for the sheer, Herculean effort it must have taken to write it. I was less interested in the love story (somewhat convoluted, and I just couldn't care) than I was in the story of these men logging Black Friday Mountain for 100 days in the dead of winter. You couldn't pay me enough to do that job. Richard approaches language in an interesting way here. Although some of the characters are flat, the world he creates, the logging camp, their routine, their definitions of what it means to "be a man," makes it worth the read. Small slap on the wrist for the publisher (MacAdam Cage) for occasionally sloppy typesetting and a few proofreading errors. (And if I'm catching 'em they must be egregious.) ( )
3 vote lcfiore | May 11, 2009 |
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"It's the mid-twentieth century and the Canadian lumber industry is dying. Only men who are strong in body and spirit, men like Will Jameson, can lead the expeditions to harvest timber in the perilous mountain landscape. But when Will dies in a tragic accident, it falls to his younger brother, Owen, to take command." "Recently returned from military duty, Owen watches his war-hero status quickly fade as he becomes entangled in a triangle between Reggie, the man he saved on the battlefield, and Reggie's wife Camellia, the woman he desires. As the town turns against him and the logging expedition becomes more treacherous, Owen seems trapped in a destiny full of betrayal, love, envy, and jealousy."--BOOK JACKET.

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