The bull-dozing, digging, grading, and construction in Ottawa in the 1970s serve as metaphors for the ambitions and dreams of two men, whose parallel lives exist on completely different planes until they briefly intersect at the height of their careers. Jerry McGuinty, an up-by-the-bootstraps contractor comes from a family of plasterers, a man dedicated to giving good product for a good day's work. Simon Struthers, the wealthy son of one of the "Mandarins" of Ontario, on the other hand, is a powerful administrator in the National Capital Division, an independent division of government formed in 1899 to plan the land use within Canada's capital. While Jerry sees land as offering unlimited possibilities of houses, malls, and golf courses, Simon sees land as a resource to be conserved, not for the sake of conservation so much as to keep the demand high, his own power intact, and his importance enhanced.
Jerry's unpretentious and ungrammatical story alternates with that of Simon, and their paths cross when Jerry sets out to build a subdivision that will surround a golf course. As Jerry's business becomes almost totally hamstrung by the red tape at the Capital Division, his home problems intensify with his wife's alcoholism and infidelity, along with his son's alienation and resentment. Simon, unable to make any sort of commitment in his private life, also delays action on Jerry's permits.
McAdam has tried to make the construction industry an exciting subject for a novel by focusing on the emotionally limited characters in the story, rather than on the industry itself. Unfortunately, Simon Struthers, one of the main characters, is a cipher with whom the reader will develop little, if any, genuine connection, while Jerry McGuinty commands our full attention and emotional involvement. With the point of view alternating between Jerry and Simon, the author creates scenes reminiscent of one-act plays, often filled with humor and irony, and inspiring the reader's empathy with Jerry. Several scenes consist entirely of dialogue and are easy to imagine on stage, but these dialogues also remind the reader of the inanities with which we pepper our everyday conversations, and some readers may become impatient with this conversational "filler." Ultimately, the novel focuses on the idea of land as potential, a parallel for the goals and dreams of the characters, which for Jerry is "something big you can walk right past...your modest contribution to the bigness of the world." Mary Whipple
- Publisher: Raincoast Book; 1st edition (2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1551926954
- ISBN-13: 978-1551926957
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3 x 22.9 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 717 g
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