It is a curiosity that the more I enjoy reading a book, the more difficult I find composing a review. This is especially so of a work of fiction and even more especially so with a book like The Last Half of the Year by Newfoundland author and actor Paul Rowe (2016, Killick Press). It is a book I read through so fast, that it took quite a bit of reflection to see it’s deeper themes.TLHOTY (if I may use the acronym to save typing it) is an enthralling journey through the lives of Jason (Jasie) Dade and his father Saul Dade. Mr. Rowe deftly takes a piece of Dade DNA, proceeds to unfold it, dissect it, then reassemble it to see where the parallel accounts of father and son intersect and interact. It is all recorded for our reading enjoyment in TLHOTY‘s 300 pages.
Father & Son, Dreamer & Drifter
Saul’s story starts (or gets jump-started) when the Great War breaks out. He immediately throws down his farm implements to volunteer. He ends up as a sailor with the Merchant Marine, has his ship torpedoed out from under him, is eventually rescued (“stay calm and wait” he tells himself) and returns to Newfoundland with big dreams in mind. It is shortly after he gets overseas that Saul makes a trip to Scotland to meet up with some friends from back home that are in the Forestry Service there. Drinking in a bar he meets a curious tattooed man. The man is Petro, a Russian Jew and who actually owns the bar they are drinking in, The Thunder Stone. Petro (whose name tellingly means stone, or rock) tells Saul how the original Thunder Stone was moved to St. Petersburg square to serve as the pedestal for the statue of Peter the Great. He prophetically tells Saul there is a large stone back where he lives (even though Petro has never been there): “I tell you Saul Dade, in the place of this stone there is a large treasure and it will help you obtain everything you seek.”
We initially meet Jason Dade as a first-year university dropout who is leaving home to travel with a friend to the North City (which is somewhere on the mainland of Canada). He is in search of The Man. He is certain that when he meets The Man, his purpose in life will be clear. Along the way in his intrepid and seemingly directionless travels Jason encounters many people, some good, some bad, but like his father drifting in the Atlantic ocean awaiting rescue, Jason patiently awaits his encounter with The Man.
TLHOTY alternates back and forth between father & son, past and present in a most engaging way, demonstrating that although Saul and Jason may not have a close relationship,in the end they are not really that different.
This was an amazing read. Author Paul Rowe has penned a clinic in creative writing with a plethora of recurring themes, symbols such as crucifixion, anagrams, acronyms and so on. Read it slowly and carefully, for The Last Half of the Year is intricately interlaced, and it will hold you spellbound up to the final pages and long afterwards. I am adding it to the long list for “The Very Best!” Awards for 2016.