This Canadian debut won Deni Y. Bechard the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for best first novel when it was published there in 2007. This year it finally makes its way to the United States, thanks to Milkweed Editions.
BÉCHARD, Deni Y. Vandal Love. 341p. Milkweed. 2012. pap. $16. ISBN 978-1-57131-091-0. LC 2001041008.
Adult/High School–Like many mystical tales, this book tells the story of a family marked by a peculiar twist of genetics. All of the children are born as either large, healthy giants or tiny, sickly runts. Hervé Hervé, the current family patriarch, has raised his brood of 18 mixed runts and brutes in the mountainous wilderness of Quebec. Over the second half of the 20th century, the family dissolves as the grown children are killed in war or drift towards an easier life in les States. For each one, however, the journey is troubled by an awareness of their differentness, a need to know if they are the only one of their kind. This is complicated by the family tendency towards alcoholism, which leaves a trail of abandoned children spliced from their families. Teens will relate to the resultant quest for identity experienced by the youth of each generation. Béchard’s expressive prose easily lures readers into the successive stories. There is a sense of mystical destiny that evokes the novels of Alice Hoffman or Isabelle Allende. Characters find redemption with unlikely people in unusual settings, but never quite ease their loneliness until family bonds are reconnected. This is a good recommendation for readers who enjoy complex stories with dark undertones, such as Ursula Hegi’s Stones from the River (S & S, 1997).–Diane Colson, Palm Harbor Library, FL