Gerard Beirne's new novel Charlie Tallulah (Oberon Press, 2013) is about a man and a woman on the run. They are in love. Or are they? They're sure of themselves, of what they're doing and where going. Or are they? There's an honesty to the prose, a just-at-your-fingertips anxiety (if that's the right word for it) that keeps you turning the page. Charlie and Cindy are constantly on the move, doing everything they can to create more distance between themselves and Krotz, a cold and twisted crime boss looking for his money. But they have more on their minds than just Trotz, and therein lies the real story, that of two people trying to find themselves in this screwed-up world. A detour to a reservation ends up feeling like a vision quest. With backstory stitched seamlessly into the mix, Beirne does a nice job of painting the vastness of the land, the isolation of the prairies and that of its characters. The dialogue is polished bare; you've got to pay attention, but there are some beautiful passages, like this one:
--I don't think so. Maggie filled the kettle with water. She tells me she wants to be buried in a tree. Yes. She wants her body to be taken out into the bush and placed high in a tree to be left there for the birds to pick her clean. It is what they did in the old days, she says.
--Is that true?
--I have heard it said. But I don't think she means it. I think it is her way of making atonement.
--For being ordinary.
That's my kind of writing.
Beirne is lovely in some places, almost dreamlike; not quite Ondaatje, but then again, who is? The bottom line: Here is a writer you should read. I'm glad I did, and you will be too.