Echo from Mount Royal
by Dave Riese
Merrimack Press

"I’ll never move. Where would I find enough boxes for all my memories."

Memory begins to reverberate when modern-day Rebecca Wiseman receives a computer for her 81st birthday and learns, through tutelage from her twelve-year-old grandson, how to email her childhood friend Jackie. Jackie’s response, “Did you read about the plane crash in the mountains up north about thirty years ago? The bastard is dead.” Time-tunnels Rebecca to her eighteen-year-old self in 1951 Montreal for a coming of age story scored with sweetness, humor, frank and funny sex, and bitter mystery.

The mystery roots when Rebecca’s charmingly condescending older brother introduces her to the love of her life, Sol Gottesman, a wealthy Jew with a troubled and secretly complex family life. Lower-middle- class, funny, vivacious Rebecca, whose loving and tender relationship with her clearheaded Jewish mother and impractical Catholic father shines bright, struggles to understand her beau, especially his dark older brother, Ezra, and controlling, status-conscious parents. As the couple’s courtship grows, so does the tense web between the families, woven with strong, earthy humor and increasingly tangled knots of bad behavior.

The fluid narrative balances the lightness of a young girl’s first love with the nasty tensions of religious and social status clashes. Historical details animate hockey-mad Montreal. Rebecca and Jackie’s ribald friendship entertains. Blackmail, love, sex, money, revenge and power spiral the bittersweet narrative to the final page. Only then does Jackie’s email resonate the truth, or at least her version of it, which highlights the age-old torture of regrets over choices made.

Humor, kindness, and perfect pace surface this complex story of love, culture clashes, family secrets, and becoming a woman in post-World War II Montreal. The secret ingredient is perspective, masterfully bookended by Rebecca’s eighty-one-year-old maturity and her eighteen-year-old dreams. An unexpected coda sends echoes through the canyons of memory.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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