A “Story-Producing Story”
In James Wood’s essay “Serious Noticing” he makes this keen observation about fictional stories: “…one definition of a story might be that it always produces more of them. A story is story-producing. […] No single story can ever explain itself: this enigma at the heart of story is itself a story. Stories produce offspring, genetic splinters of themselves, hapless embodiments of their original inability to tell the whole tale.
Stories are dynamic combinations of surplus and lack: disappointing because they must end, and disappointing because they cannot really end. A real story is endless, but it disappoints because it is begun and ended not by its own logic but by the coercive form of the storyteller: you can feel the pure surplus of life trying to get beyond the death which authorial form imposes.”
A lengthy quote to begin a review, but it describes so strongly the experience of reading A Song From Faraway. It is a self-producing story with no real beginning, and certainly no end. And, of course, the reader is disappointed because he runs out of pages, thus ‘ending’ the story — on paper, at least. Mr. Béchard’s book is an enigmatic one in that it begins at what could be considered an ending of sorts, at least from a time perspective as it covers 1992 to the year 2008. The ‘oldest’ story begins in 1879. The story travels over several continents. This is a large, epic story contained within its 200 pages.
I don’t even know how or where to begin laying out a synopsis of A Song From Faraway. There are two half-brothers, Andrew and Hugh who have the same father, a man with the last name of Estrada. The two brothers could not be more different, the typical Cain and Abel as it were. Andrew is the reserved, unemotional academic while Hugh obtains his education by drifting around North America and the Middle East. He shows up in Andrew’s life, popping into the story, too. Neither brother really knows the past history of their father, one who lived with Andrew and his mother until his death. Staying sequestered in his basement study, surrounded by books, chain-smoking his remaining years away. It is upon finding and reading his papers and manuscripts (and his three published books) that they (and the reader along with them) get to know just who their father was. Mr. Béchard tells the backstory in such a fascinating way that it held my attention until I finished it (which I really didn’t want to do).
Some of A Song From Faraway consists of previously published stories and merged with new material, the result is seamless. A magnificent creation of enigmatic prose and conceptual realization, I’m putting A Song From Faraway on the 2020 longlist for “The Very Best!” Book Awards in the Best Fiction category. 5 stars!
*This review was based on an Advance Reading Copy provided by the publisher.
A Song from Faraway by Deni Ellis Béchard
Goose Lane Editions
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James M. Fisher is the owner and editor-in-chief of The Miramichi Reader. The Miramichi Reader (TMR) —Canada’s best-regarded source for the finest in new literary releases— highlights noteworthy books and authors across Canada from coast to coast to coast (est. 2015). James works and resides in Miramichi, New Brunswick with his wife Diane and their tabby cat Eddie.