hen I opened Ian McGillis' A Tourist's Guide to Glengarry I was in a lousy mood. Christ, I thought, not a Canadian attempt at Roddy Doyle's Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha. Quickly, though, this irritation was swept aside by an unexpected style and voice.
This isn't the story of a kid who grows up in a lousy, broken home filled with abuse - rather, it's the opposite. Neil McDonald, our nine year old narrator is reflecting back on one day's events that happened to him two months previously. It is the start of the Seventies.
Part of my initial concern was over this normal kid's normal life. He is obsessive over baseball and top ten music. His life is filled with the trivial and simple events of your average nine year old. As I read on my mind began flooding with forgotten childhood memories. While the events of a kid's life look trivial, they carry enormous weight and stress when you are still young and trying to understand the world. That is the strength and skill of what McGillis has done here - he has put the mind of Neil on the page. Not only that, but he has done it convincingly.
By the end of the book I found myself wanting to know the little details. How does Neil perceive this, or feel about that? I was drawn into his world completely, and when the book was finished I still wanted him to tell me about the next day, and the day after that.
There actually is a surprise plot of sorts, and Neil's reaction to it brought me back to several points in my own past because of the authenticity of the narration. A Tourist's Guide to Glengarry captures the feelings and thoughts I remember. The uncertainties. Discovering the world and making sense of its rules and order as you go along.
published by The Porcupine's Quill