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Beyond the comfort zone

Book Review: One Brother Shy by Terry Fallis is a tragi-comic dance launched by death
Personal conquest Terry Fallis, author of One Brother Shy, is at the Whistler Writers Festival. PHOTO submitted

Whistler hosts the 2017 Writers Festival from Oct. 12 to 15. Pique is running book reviews by attending authors to celebrate the event. For information and tickets:

In his latest book, One Brother Shy, Terry Fallis weaves a fictional story of one man's personal conquest and adult coming-of-age in the author's recognizable style, where tragedy dances with humour and adventure mixes with incredulousness.

Alex McGinnis, a shy computer engineer, leads a simple but tortured life. He is haunted by an incident from his past known only as "Gabriel." Staying out of the line of fire at work and caring for his dying mother consume Alex's days.

When Alex's mother dies she leaves him with an envelope. Its contents send Alex on a journey to face his past and discover the family he never knew he had.

We root for Alex as he pushes himself well beyond his comfort zone to solve the puzzle his mother's death created. As he follows clue after clue from Canada to England and on to Russia he solves one piece of the mystery after another and discovers his true self in the process. I enjoyed the international element of the story, which also maintained an adventurous pace.

One Brother Shy is also full of contrasts, which add to its reader appeal. High-tech software development is teamed with life behind the former Iron Curtain; brotherly love and renewed family ties are woven into hoodwinking corporate America. There's also a connection to the Russian national hockey team, which highlights our most favoured sport and makes this a truly Canadian story.

The characters are well crafted despite being somewhat stereotypical. There's the geeky girlfriend in waiting, the nurturing care aid, the hip tech start-up dude, and a mysterious man from the past. Fallis mines real-life events and heaps in a good measure of fantasy as he builds the cast of characters that help Alex in his quest to discover who he really is.

One Brother Shy is written with Fallis' attention to detail and honesty. He is an expert at weaving tragedy with humour and crisis is transformed into an adventure. Fallis also makes the fantastical seem very achievable. This is an adventure that keeps you turning the pages and cheering for the underdog. You'll laugh out loud and it may even keep you up into the wee hours.

Nicola Bentley writes about travel and wellness and enjoys reading good finds by hardworking Canadian authors.

Terry Fallis will be at the Whistler Writers Festival on Friday, Oct. 13, at 8 p.m,, performing at the Literary Cabaret, and at A Walk to Lost Lake and Back, October 15, 9 a.m. For more information, visit