…I read Devin Krukoff’s debut novel Compensation. I was curious about the book as it had been shortlisted for 2 awards at the recent Saskatchewan Book Awards, and because Krukoff is a former Regina resident and a product of the creative writing program at UVic.

So I read the book in a few hours. I don’t intend for this to be a review, but here are some thoughts about the novel.

The comment made by the rockstar earlier holds true for me as well. I was expecting the novel to move beyond what it attempts to do (which, according to the blurb is an anatomy of a life of avoidance) –although I’m don’t think it fulfills the anatomy part as the bones, while solid, are not broken enough to fit the coffin.

The short novel (there were only 147 pages, and there was at least an inch margin on each page) spanned the life of Richard Parks, a chronic manipulator addicted to illness as a means of emotional control over others. The opening pages were vivid (much like movie narration during flashbacks, the 1st person narrator attempts to snatch the reader’s collar during his flashbacks and pull the reader along); they captured an immediate oddness to the life surrounding the character, an intrigue to the outcome, and a sadness.

The characterization of Richard reminded me of the protagonist from John Fowles’ first novel The Collector. There is an emotional distance to the main character that the reader understands, and through 1st person narration the reader swims through the consciousness of the character; however, because the swim was often in tepid, shallow water, I ultimately ended up having no sympathy for Richard. Interestingly enough, I wanted to feel something for him, even if it was pure disgust. The plunge into psychological illness is poetically written, and often the language is quite compelling yet I couldn’t help but feel there was something missing–or perhaps this was point of the novel, that Richard’s inertia in life is something no one can understand, so while the reader is able to pinpoint the moment of crisis/incident for Richard, it is the reader’s incomprehension of difference that is alluded to.

The writing, the language, and the style were all quite good. While I wanted to see more scenes (more action/dialogue) rather than lengthy narration, the descriptions were clear and startlingly refreshing in their composition.

Despite the refreshing language, there was no tension in the novel. This alone was interesting, as I thought there might be the character’s personal tension, a waffling between what is normal and what is not, but I suppose the point is that the reader is certain that Richard was never normal to begin with. The failing relationships are in his mind, and the failure to comprehend the world around him causes him to fail in comprehension of his own life. I felt that I needed to read more of the mystery surrounding the circumstances of normality–if that makes any sense. While the reader is in his mind, the reader still isn’t sure the why and who of Richard. The novel sits on the surface of the illness, floating on Richard’s need to fake illness without ever needling through the layers.

Overall, I felt it was a good attempt at attempting the unknown mind of the physically able, yet unstable need to be compensated in the odd personality of Richard Parks. While intriguing, the book never seems to move beyond the pale path of its narrated tale.

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