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On the first day of Grade One, September 1965, two startling events occur in the unusual life of six-year-old Jack Klein of Vancouver: his mother Lorraine learns her husband Ray is having an affair, and Antoine Gaudin, the 65-year-old Frenchman who rents their basement suite, commits suicide, leaving 36 canaries, a suitcase full of European currency, a small sack of gold teeth and a terrifying photograph from the Second World War. In bristling dialogue and lean prose, Buday's signature dark comedy paints a spot-on portrait of a decade, a marriage and one small boy who leaves innocence behind for an uncertain and unforgiving future. Life at the end of this day, for the Klein family, and for readers, will never be the same.
A Sack of Teeth, Grant Buday's fourth work of fiction, tells the story of a very bad day in the life of Jack Klein, a six-year-old Vancouverite. It is Jack's first day of school, and it doesn't begin well: he witnesses his mother's discovery that Antoine, the mysterious, elderly European who rents the Kleins' basement suite, has committed suicide, leaving behind 36 canaries and a handful of macabre trinkets, including a Crown Royal bag stuffed with gold teeth.
Jack's mother, Lorraine, is having an equally horrible time. Only 24 years old, she is very much a young woman of the '60s: a Beatles fan, sympathetic to the hippies who rail against the Vietnam War. Her husband, however, is from another time: he served in Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War, loves the Rat Pack, and hates the new youth culture. Furthermore, he is having an affair with a glamorous woman his own age--an affair that Lorraine is about to discover.
This is a controlled and sometimes brutal novel about war and family, the explosive mingling of the personal and the political. Buday writes taut, pleasingly unadorned prose, and isn't afraid to venture into controversial territory. At times A Sack of Teeth seems too symbolic, too contrived, too neatly stitched together, but it is nevertheless a delightfully unsettling novel, one that views enormous issues through an intimate microscope. --Jack Illingworth
Through the microcosm of one flawed and vulnerable family, Buday filters large issues such as guilt, betrayal, and the loss of innocence. Lorraine Klein is devastated when she discovers the lifeless body of her basement tenant, the Frenchman she secretly loved. Antoine has committed suicide, leaving behind a suitcase full of European currency and a sack of gold teeth. When she is unable to reach her husband, Ray, who has called in sick to work, she figures out that he is having an affair with his voluptuous secretary. Meanwhile, their fey six-year-old son, Jack, is attending the first day of first grade, cowed by his sarcastic teacher and daydreaming about friendly giants. Was Antoine a war criminal? Will this trauma cause Lorraine to dissociate from reality, just as her mother has done? Will Jack be able to retrieve Antoine's 36 frightened canaries? The answers to these and other questions are given in elliptical fashion, as Buday flits effortlessly between the psyches of a bohemian 24-year-old wife, her logic-loving engineer husband, and their whimsical, imaginative child. Joanne Wilkinson
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- ISBN: 9781551924571