McAdam Rises to Challenge of Species Barrier
ONTARIO literary writer Colin McAdam's compelling third novel manages to be both violent and loving, eloquent and non-verbal. Which is apt for a book that features an ensemble cast of humans and chimpanzees.
Those readers shuddering at the prospect of another "animal novel" can rest assured. Like Newfoundlander Jessica Grant in 2009's Come, Thou Tortoise, and Toronto's Barbara Gowdy in her 1999 elephant novel The White Bone, McAdam rises to the challenge of writing across the species barrier, where before he'd settled for crossing class lines and the gender divide.
Structurally, A Beautiful Truth is a Canadian Museum for Human Rights whereas his previous books, Fall (2009) and Some Great Thing (2004), are roomy houses.
Rather than two or three main characters, for instance, here there are almost a dozen major and minor characters. The humans include Walt, a developer who adopts a baby chimp, David, a scientist conducting ape research, and Mike, an ambitious local politician who has an instinctive dislike of chimps.
The first half of the book is largely spent in the humans' heads, mostly with the easygoing Walt, as is evidenced by the novel's plummy opening sentence:
"Judy and Walter Walt Ribke lived on 12 up-and-down acres, open to whatever God gave them, on the eastern boundary of Addison County, four feet deep in years of rueful contentment."
McAdam has the childless couple rationalizing their decision, first, to import an exotic animal, and then, a dozen years later, dealing with the inevitable results.
By the time we're two-thirds of the way in, McAdam is narrating almost entirely from the point of view of the chimps, who are housed in different sections of a biomedical facility.
And as one of them, Looee, is dosed with antidepressants and anesthetics, and exposed to a variety of illnesses, we know there is no going back for either Walt or Looee. …