I wanted to read this book because the author, Anthony De Sa, is a Canadian and the book got shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize 2008. Unfortunately it didn’t win, but it was an interesting read.
Barnacle Love is about a young Portuguese man who dreams of living in Canada. Canada is the land of dreams, and Portugal holds only what his mother envisioned for his life. When he finally achieves that dream, we jump ahead and see the story from his son’s perspective. As we watch the father through the son’s eyes, we see that the father did not get everything he wanted from life. As he becomes bitter, he drinks, and soon the son is struggling to live his dreams beneath the weight of his father’s personal destruction.
I had trouble determining how I felt about this book. It’s certainly well-written and compelling, but it wasn’t plot driven. It felt more like a tale or series of short stories woven together to form a novel. It was really unique to see Canada through the eyes of an immigrant and a first-generation Canadian. The language barrier and conflicting feelings the characters felt regarding their heritage was something I’ve never experienced. I really enjoyed how this book “showed” instead of just “told”, as my English teacher would say; the book didn’t tell you that the son was ashamed of his father’s drinking problem, but instead showed it in the son’s actions, words, and other details.
Anthony De Sa really captured the essence of his characters and you feel true empathy for their personal struggles, which aren’t much different than an average person trying to make a life for themselves. It was easy to connect with the characters. Barnacle Love was certainly different from the fiction I normally read, and I really enjoyed it.
***UPDATE: I have posted an approved excerpt from Barnacle Love***
Full disclosure: I received a copy of the book from the publisher for review purposes. This situation did not affect my review in any way, shape or form.