Published by W. W. Norton & Company on April 30th 2012
Genres: Canada, Historical Fiction, Magical Realism, Romance
"A breathtaking debut . . . filled with ghosts and demons who lurk in the Canadian north woods." —Andrew Abrahams, People
On the eve of his mother’s death, Stephen comes home to Sawgamet, a logging town where the dangers of working in the cuts are overshadowed by the dark mysteries and magic lurking in the woods. Thirty years after the mythical summer his grandfather returned to town on a quixotic search for his dead wife, Stephen confronts the painful losses in his own life.
It’s funny, I usually start out my reviews with a short little blurb of my own just rehashing the particulars of the story. With ‘Touch’ though, this story was so all over the place that I can’t adequately explain it’s basis; it simply eludes me. The official summary feels deceiving and makes it sound ripe with potential… but it never lived up it, that’s for sure. I truly feel as if I’ve been hoodwinked. I blame the stunning cover! *shakes fist* But honestly, I recall going through this magical realism stage and added practically every book tagged as such. This is one of them. I’m thinking that if the author isn’t Sarah Addison Allen, then I apparently don’t care much for magical realism.
It should be said that according to the Reading Group Discussion questions (yeah, I read them in hopes that it would clarify some things. I was wrong) this is considered more along the lines of mythical realism as it incorporates Inuit mythology. While I could say that the incorporation of mythological elements may give it a smidgen of credibility in comparison to strange magical stuff happening for no apparent reason, it was a poorly managed addition to the story. The story is centered around this small town in the Canadian wilderness which came into existence only after gold was discovered. It’s a story about survival. But then out of nowhere some strange creature would pop up and it was like mental whiplash. Like the mahaha (actual creatures name, I wasn’t just laughing):
“They tickle you until all your breath is gone. Leave you dead, but with a smile.”
Holy freaky shit. That’s the stuff of nightmares. But I was intrigued and wanted to know more so I googled this scary beasty with the funny name. The page I found described the mahaha in basically the exact same way the author did in the book. Like it was copied. And that kind of killed the cool out of it. To me, magical realism IS the story, it’s incorporated and intertwined into the very fabric of the story. But all the magical elements in Touch felt like a strange and ill-fitting addition that was added as an afterthought to an otherwise contemporary tale of survival.
The writing style itself, apart from the actual story, was lacking a much needed finesse. The tale was not linear and bounced all over the place without any indication as to whether we were back in the present tense or still being told the story of the past. The point of view was a poor choice as well. The grandson is the narrator retelling his grandfather’s story. Why not just have the grandfather tell his own story? Even though the grandfather told him his story it seemed unlikely that he would know as many details as he did. There were also strange leaps to other characters and telling the story through there eyes which definitely made it implausible as his grandfather wasn’t even present in those instances.
While the writing reflected definite potential, it was too unpolished for me to enjoy. I can’t remember the last time (if ever) I finished a novel and honestly had absolutely no clue the purpose or meaning of it. So much of this story was too farcical in its inconceivability for me to garner any sort of entertainment. Many people have lauded this book for it’s eerie, haunting qualities but ultimately this left me chilled for all the wrong reasons.