Big White Knuckles
It’s a testament to Brian Tucker’s writing that I had to put White Knuckles down several times. Not because it’s a terrible book---not at all, but because Tucker’s bloody, squishy, crunchy fight scenes are wincingly vivid. Lucky for me, Tucker isn’t afraid to deploy his sharp sense of humour too, which provides some much-needed levity between the blood spills. Teenage protagonist Dagan Cadden lives in an unnamed small Cape Breton mining town. His friends are tough, his Da is tougher and Dagan himself isn’t afraid to throw a few punches. Ironically though, in a book named after a large man’s ready fists, there isn’t enough tension to make this story completely believable. Dagan’s desire and pathway to becoming an artist---an incredibly difficult decision---is supported by everyone, and arrives easily, including his full scholarship acceptance to NSCAD (where Tucker also attended), although the scenes of Dagan waking to the possibilities of art are lovely. Interesting that Joel Thomas Hynes provided praise for the book’s back cover---I never warmed up to his Right Away Monday drug-addicted, anti-hero Clayton Reid, but I finished Hynes’s book worrying and thinking about Reid’s uncertain future. But Dagan? He really doesn’t need me, he’ll be just fine. Less a novel than a series of linked short stories, Big White Knuckles is a familiar tale, but one that’s well-told and with heart.
Sue Carter Flinn