Vancouver Sun Review - They Shouldn't Make You Promise That

Lois Simmie goes west
Reviewed by: Rebecca Wigod

Lois Simmie is an established Saskatoon writer who knows the West Coast well. She has written seven kids' books - including two, set in Vancouver's Sylvia Hotel, about a cat called Mister Got to Go - and six adult novels.

The most recent one, What I'm Trying to Say Is Goodbye, got few reviews in the West when it came out late last year. Yet it's set in Victoria and convincingly conjures up Vancouver Island life.

Matthew Kelly, the protagonist, is a 60-year-old former newsman who's in rought shape. His love affair with the bottle cosst him his job and his pretty red-haired wife, Delia. He is reduced to managing an Oak Bay apartment building full of eccentric seniors while he battles his demons at AA meetings.

He and Delia are worried about Sam, their 13-year-old grandson, who lives up-Island. Sam's dad, Michael (their son-in-law), has recently turned into a wildeyed, long-bearded religious zealot. HIs mom, Kate, seems strangely passive as Michael goes about turning their property into a commune.

Simmie narrates in the third person, but the point of view shifts between Matthew and Sam.

Matthew is a sympathetic, believable character, so it's fun to read his chapters.

Sam, though, is living a nightmare, so his chapters are no fun to read. Michael yells at him and strips away his privileges, one by one. Sam begins to fear his dad might kill his dog.

There's also an amusing little subplot about Liz Wright, the youngest tenant in Matthew's building. She's having an affair with Maurice, a pompous, married MLA. During their trysts in her suite, the ghost of his deceased former mistress (she lived in the self-same suite - the gall of Maurice!) playfully hides his clothes.

Simmie is a capable storyteller and the book offers many pleasures. Its flaw is that we don't get to see what Michael was like before he got religion or understand why he morphed into such a dangerous creep.

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