March 3, 2012
The Goon by Jerrod Edson (Oberon Press, Ottawa, no price given) is the young novelist's *third book, and, we think, his best so far.
It's the tale of Jack, a 58-year-old ex-NHL enforcer and a big old drunk. Jack works part-time on the toll bridge in Saint John (where Edson grew up) and spends the rest of the time chasing women, shooting pop cans in the woods behind his house, reminiscing and boasting and, of course, drinking.
He knows lots of people, but probably his only real friend is his old cat, Junior. With him in the story are his neighbour Roy, who's still grieving the death of his lover, Ken, five years ago, and his son, Cam. Cam is 17 and a really good hockey player, but afraid of everything.
These characters, and several others, are all more or less complex. Among the finest scenes are the death and burial of Junior and those surrounding Cam's successful fight with the opposing team's bully. The Goon begins with a trio of men stuck in their own past, but ends on a note of hope.
*Actually it's my fourth book.