Monday, December 14, 2009

A Perfect Night to Go to China

A Perfect Night to Go to China by David Gilmour (Thomas Allen Publishers, 2005) 179 pages

Roman, a well known broadcaster (strikingly similar to the real life David Gilmour who was a broadcaster on the CBC), and the father of a six year old child Simon, grapples with the disappearance of his son. He does something foolish leaving the boy momentarily alone one wintry night to slip into a bar down the street. For this small but not very sensible slip, Roman pays the ultimate price.

Gilmore taps into what is likely the greatest of fears that all parents face. What if something horrific happened to my child? What if I was responsible for his or her suffering or injury due to my negligence?

Roman's extreme emotional suffering unleashes impolitic behavior and accusations.

Roman becomes a suspect in the boy's disappearance. His wife M. orders him out of the house because, she says, she can't stand his scent in their home. He has become repulsive to her. He barges into strangers' homes on the slight suspicion that they might be responsible for the boy's disappearance. He haunts cemeteries and his old childhood home in Forest Hill. He roams the streets. He picks fights with strangers. He follows an instinct that tells him that Simon is still alive. Roman eventually loses his job and his capacity to get through the day doing what he no longer cares about. Nothing else matters but Simon's return.

Roman has odd but intriguing recurrent dreams where he sees his son in some unspecified but pleasant Caribbean town. He tries desperately to get Simon to leave the town but can find no way to do so. He implores his dead mother, who also is a resident of the phantom town, to assist him but to no avail. The mother seems to be the key to Simon's return in Roman's eyes - is it that she who had given Roman life, may now return the boy to life? It's like he is visiting the land of the dead trying to lure Simon back. He seems sure that he can do so.

The ending is unexpected and strange and oddly compelling because there is no firm resolution and may or may not be a fantasy.

I enjoyed the book but it is disturbing to think that this beat out Joseph Boyden's vastly superior Three Day Road for the Governor General's Award for Fiction (English) in 2005. Perhaps it was the simplicity and painful honesty of the plot which persuaded the judges; it is compelling but not a story that should have beat out Boyden.

No comments: