Winners and Losers: Tales of Life, Law, Love and Loss by Darlene Maddott

In her latest collection of linked short stories, Winners and Losers, Darlene Maddott shifts the point of view between first person and limited third person, and time between present and past, past and future, future and present, to tell the story of Francesca Malotti—a single mother of one son; a Canadian lawyer who practices Law for more than three decades; and a friend, adversary, companion, wife, and divorcee whose personal intelligence, ignorance, failures, successes, strengths and weaknesses are mirrored in the messiness that is Law as it is practiced in Canada.

Written laws are tightly structured, but the way the law is practiced and findings under the Law are not. ‘Justice’ does not equate with truth and one’s perception of whether a finding in Court is ‘just’ or ‘unjust’ depends on which side of the argument one is on.

I read in my Evidence text: “The quest for justice is not necessarily synonymous with the quest for truth. It is better to close the case without all the available evidence being put on the record. We place a ceiling price on truth.”

Later the protagonist will tell us litigators do not want to know the truth.
There is a cardinal rule among litigators … never ask a question in cross examination for which the answer is unknown. Litigators must never let a personal curiosity impair their control of the case.

Like written Law, the outward circumstances of the protagonist’s life are tightly structured. First, by the family into which she is born a middle child. Then by her mother’s desire to see her settled into something that will allow her to be financially independent. Then by Law School. Then by marriage, becoming a mother, divorce, another marriage, another divorce, being a mother, and practicing the profession for which she has trained. There are rules, written and unwritten, that go with each of those things. Unlike the structure of the Law she first studies, the structure of her life changes; but very like the law she practices, the means she employs to live within the structures as they exist shift and change according to which ‘truth’ she chooses to accept; how high she wants the ceiling to go.

Overall, the stories link seamlessly and each gives us more insight into Canadian Law—as it’s written and as it’s practiced—and into the human condition as witnessed, understood and lived through the protagonist’s complex life, the people she lives with, and those she represents. Except for the story titled Newton’s Third Law. In this story, told in first person by a woman we don’t see before or after it, the reader is propelled out of the protagonist’s story. Though the protagonist is there in the background, and though one can relate to the lessons the attorney is learning from this client’s story—and relate those lessons to the protagonist’s life—it is jarring because it’s the only place in the book where we’re removed from the protagonist’s point of view. And perhaps that’s the point. No matter how much planning, or care, one puts into living one’s life, there are those times that we are propelled into a place we can’t make sense of. Or maybe that’s just fanciful thinking on the part of this reader. In the stories that follow Newton’s Third Law, we are put back in Francesca’s point of view and the sense of cohesiveness is restored.

That Maddott is a master at putting together words that take readers on a journey of the human condition with intricate delicacy is undeniable. That Winners and Losers is written with the expertise of one who is adept at creating scenes with the swelling and subsiding of emotion that keeps readers engaged, just as such scenes might keep judges and/or juries engaged, is also undeniable.

This is a book that gives readers a tour of how Matrimonial Law is practiced in Canada while it explores, exposes and broadens one’s understanding of the depths of the human condition. Love. Fear. Bonds. Loyalty. Betrayal. The just. The unjust. Lies. Truths. The beliefs that determine the kind of lives these characters live and what passes for justice for them.

In the Epilogue we learn about the author’s own life. And one cannot help but think that though there is the standard disclaimer on the verso—Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.—this book is more like a memoir than fiction. That it is authentic is undeniable, too.

Darlene Madott has authored nine books. A lawyer who practised for over three decades, her eighth book, Dying Times, (EXILE, 2021), grew out of aspects of her legal background and was a fictional exploration of the last journey. Winners and Losers (GUERNICA, 2023), circles back to track the life and legal journeys from near their beginnings. She lives in Toronto.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Guernica Editions (April 1 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 328 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1771837675
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1771837675

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Since graduating from the Banff Centre Book Editing Program in 1996, Jocelyn has explored all facets of book-making. She is a published author of fiction and non-fiction, an editor, and the founder of two presses established to produce three anthologies that together contain the work of 66 British Columbia writers and artists. Since 2012, she has also written book reviews of children’s books for Canadian Materials Magazine. You  can see more about her on her website: