Shannon Author Captures Irish-Canadian Experience

My dad was Irish and my mom was French -- another one of those mixed marriages. But they appreciated the same things. Of course, my dad said, "It took me twenty years to learn."

So reads the back page of Shannon author Harold Griffin's collection of short stories, Fragile Boys, Fragile Men. Griffin, the winner of the 2000 Nuacht short story competition, has produced in this story collection a heartfelt, evocative series of reflections on life and love that run the range of the Irish-Canadian experience in Quebec.

Griffin's prose is eminently readable; the dialogue is familiar and entertaining, especially when he touches on the omnipresent subject of linguistic relations in Quebec.

"You're frustrated, Al," continued Ellis. "You hate speaking French ... You hate having to read French and having to hear French spoken every day. Why don't you get out of the province like the rest of the quitters who left?"
"People who left this province are still Canadians."
"Canadians? They're quitters, that's what they are."

There is a marked maturity to his work, and richness to his voice. Consider this telling passage from "The Leaving," a description of a wife watching her husband attempt to rejuvenate his injured body.

Mary stood at the kitchen counter and fought to hold back tears. What had a man to do in order to enjoy the fruits of a hardworking and devoted life?
"Why don't you come to bed and stop doing that? You're only going to hurt yourself more."
"Good God, woman. I've got to try something. I just can't sit here and rot."

Griffin is perhaps most poignant in "A Day in the Life," describing the discovery of a dead horse by a couple of boys out on a fishing trip. There is something mournful about it, the loss of childhood innocence.

Hughie's body felt lean and hard and sinewy to her. He didn't allow himself to be held closely very often. He was a mite taller than his mom now, but she realized how the child in him was still there. He wiped his tears aside with a soiled hand, smearing his tanned cheeks.

Harold Griffin's Fragile Boys, Fragile Men is available from Borealis Press Ltd.