Books: Exploring the Evolution of Friendship on a Strange Path to Enlightenment

Victoria author David M. Wallace’s ‘comedy brudder’ reveals serious and burning concerns

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The Little Brudders of Mercy

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David M. Wallace | Tidewater Press (New Westminster, 2022)

$21.95 | 268pp


That he talks about politics (“The bourgeois take from the poor and give themselves to themselves. The rich take from everyone and put them in a tax shelter”), sharing the wonder (Okay. I admit it. I’ve never seen nuttin’ like that before. It was super awesome”), or evading a question (“You don’t want to know, brother”), Théodore, better known as Thierry, is a thief of born scene. A character vividly embodying a carpe diem philosophy (which leans toward unapologetic hedonism), he is the unfiltered truth-teller and direct nucleus of The Little Brudders of Misericord, the accomplished first novel by Victoria’s David M. Wallace.

Thierry is also a mouse, one who speaks French and English (and, presumably, mouse).

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In Little Brudders, Wallace skillfully blends two ostensibly distinct genres. As the novel progresses, however, the two gradually merge.

In the part of Thierry’s story, which takes up about half of the book, Wallace offers an attractive version of a buddy comedy. The “comedy brudder” portrays a sort of male bond that celebrates the transformative power of friendship.
As usual, the guys are against each other: Properly cerebral, melancholy, sober and hygienic, Spence (a human in his 60s) meets a freewheeling, sex-positive and naturally irreverent thug who challenges him and teaches him to relax a bit. As the friendship deepens and the couple’s illicit antics escalate, Spence begins to embrace Thierry’s zest for life.

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Plus, while teaching Thierry — and even bickering with him — Spence comes to see himself in a new light. Sure, Thierry’s therapy on weed, alcohol, and breaking the rules isn’t ideal for a recovering alcoholic, but it’s a page delight.

From the moment Thierry shows up at Spence’s Montreal apartment and asks “Do you have any beer?” This rude rodent leads Spence down a strange path to enlightenment.

Interspersed with chapters describing the humorous (albeit spiraling) misadventures of Thierry and Spence – which involve drunken days and nights, vandalism, petty theft, a heist and an elaborate plot that appears to involve a mysterious criminal mastermind as well as a guy named Rocco – Wallace offers harrowing insights into the struggles and defeats of Lyle Spencer, who prefers Spence.

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Alone in Montreal, the city he adopted after retiring as a theater teacher at a West Coast Catholic school for decades, he questions his usefulness now that his daughter has grown up and left him. indoor plants to water as she travels to France with her fiancé. As Spence observes, “I will observe the traditional Lenten fast while starving for companionship.”

Just “sick of everything” in the early days of Lent – ​​Wallace puts the novel in 2019 between Ash Wednesday (March 6) and Pentecost (June 9) – he is drawn to painful memories. It summons episodes—childhood, marriage, and career—that reshape its lifespan into a catalog of hurtful victimization, harmful choices, missed opportunities, and failures. More positively, Spence recalls a conversion to Catholicism that occurred after experiencing a “profound sense of oneness” with the world.

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From heavy drinking and one-night stands with random partners to an unstable alcoholic father, a predatory Catholic priest, and marriage to a damaged young woman who promised “I’m just going to cause you a lot of pain,” the latest” bad patch “Spence’s Crossing in Montreal suggests the pursuit of a larger scheme. Admittedly, lonely days in a dingy building that looks a bit like a fire trap are more alike.”

Faced with a talking mouse, Spence thinks, “I understand that no one is going to believe me. I know that. But perfectly sane people believe crazier things than that. Moses spoke to a burning bush, after all. After that, he no longer wondered much about Thierry’s gift for speaking.

For doubting readers, Wallace concludes a sincere and somewhat mechanically inventive novel, with references to “unspecified delusional disorder” and “prescription of antipsychotics.” Figuration or not, Thierry is an improbable model and a guide whose ardor animates the novel from beginning to end.

Brett Josef Grubisic is the author of the recently published novel My Two-Faced Luck (Now or Never Publishing, Surrey, 2021).

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