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4 of 5
5 ratings
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list price: $20.95
edition:Paperback
also available: Audiobook (CD) eBook
category: Fiction
published: April 2011
ISBN:9781552452417
publisher: Coach House Books

Monoceros

by Suzette Mayr

reviews: 1
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literary
4 of 5
5 ratings
rated!
rated!
list price: $20.95
edition:Paperback
also available: Audiobook (CD) eBook
category: Fiction
published: April 2011
ISBN:9781552452417
publisher: Coach House Books
Description

Winner of the W.O. Mitchell Book PrizeWinner of the 2012 Relit Award for Best Novel
Longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize
Shortlisted for the Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT Fiction
Shortlisted for the Alberta Literary Award for Best Fiction
A Globe and Mail Best Novel of 2011

A seventeen-year-old boy, bullied and heartbroken, hangs himself. And althoughhe felt terribly alone, his suicide changes everyone around him.

His parents are devastated. His secret boyfriend's girlfriend is relieved. His unicorn- and virginity-obsessed classmate, Faraday, is shattered; she wishes she had made friends with him that time she sold him an Iced Cappuccino at Tim Hortons. His English teacher, mid-divorce and mid-menopause, wishes she could remember the dead student's name, that she could care more about her students than her ex's new girlfriend. Who happens to be her cousin. The school guidance counsellor, Walter, feels guilty – maybe he should have made an effort when the kid asked for help. Max, the principal, is worried about how it will reflect on the very Catholic school. And Walter, who's been secretly in a relationship with Max for years, thinks that's a little callous. He’s also tired of Max's obsession with some sci-fi show on TV. And Max wishes Walter would lose some weight and remember to use a coaster.

And then Max meets a drag queen named Crepe Suzette. And everything changes.

Monoceros is a masterpiece of the tragicomic; by exploring the effects of a suicide on characters outside the immediate circle, Mayr offers a dazzlingly original look at the ripple effects – both poignant and funny – of a tragedy. A tender, bold work.

About the Author

Suzette Mayr is the author of Venous Hum, The Widows, Moon Honey, and Monoceros, which won the W. O. Mitchell Book Prize, the ReLit Award for Best Novel, and was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Mayr lives in Calgary, Alberta.

Author profile page >
Contributor Notes

Suzette Mayr is the author of Venous Hum, The Widows, Moon Honey, and Monoceros, which won the W. O. Mitchell Book Prize, the ReLit Award for Best Novel, and was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Mayr lives in Calgary, Alberta.

Editorial Review

'Spellbinding and playful ... A stylistic tour de force.'

National Post

'Monoceros is one of the most imaginative, quirky and emotionally devastating novels I've read in a long while.'

– Zoe Whittall, Globe and Mail

'[A] smart and difficult tale about grief and acceptance … [Monoceros] just might be the mostimportant book you read.'

– CBC Books

'In a tragedy laced with humour, Mayr engages readers with her meticulous attention to detail, providing vivid descriptions of not only her characters, but also the heavy emotions … churning inside them.'

This Magazine

'[A] complex and moving novel deserving of a large and attentive readership.'

Quill & Quire

'Ms. Mayr's characterizations are second to none and she has a wonderful wit. [Monoceros] should be on all school curricula.'

Winnipeg Review

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Reader Reviews

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Monoceros is a Literary Phenomenon

Note: This review was originally published at http://bookgaga.posterous.com on 24 February 2012.

I finished Suzette Mayr’s Monoceros and immediately thought to myself, “How in the world am I going to review this novel without simply gushing uncontrollably?”

Monoceros is magical. Amazing. Any number of happy, shiny adjectives I could think up. It gallops out of the gates from first line, “Because u r a fag is scrawled in black Jiffy marker across his locker,” and doesn’t slow down until the last. This is a novel about ripples spreading through a fictionalised Calgary after the suicide of Patrick Furey, a gay teenager at a Catholic school. It is furious, it is in shock, it is in tears, it doesn’t care – won’t care – about Patrick Furey and his empty desk in English class. “So he killed himself,” thinks Petra, the girlfriend of Patrick’s secret boyfriend, Ginger. “So sad. Too bad. Now he’ll stop molesting her boyfriend. So glad. All she did was say she was going to rip his dick off.”

For a novel whose subject matter predisposes melodrama and didacticism, Monoceros remains unsentimental. The first chapter, “The End,” details the becauses of Patrick’s suicide, culminating in his death. For the rest of the novel, he’s gone. This is not a novel about teen suicide, not really. This is a novel about the people who live on. Maureen Mochinski (née Rule)’s inability to pry her mind from her divorce, to remember the dead student’s name. Faraday Michaels’s regret over having not struck up a conversation over iced cappuccinos and her wish that her parents would stop “fornicating all over the house.” Ginger lying in bed as he “noses his fingers for just one ghost of Furey’s perfume.” Walter, the school guidance counsellor, and Max, the principal who’s also Walter’s secret lover. Patrick’s parents. Classmates. These characters who constitute the novel – they are Mayr’s focus, rather than plot. Monoceros is about people colliding and breaking against each other in the wake of tragedy, and learning about themselves as they glue the pieces together.

The novel successfully navigates the way Patrick’s suicide washes over the school. Walter, for example, knows he could have done something to help, could have given the boy an attentive ear: “Walter snared by another circle, layers and layers of concentric circles, till they touch each harsh point on the curve. He didn’t do his job. He failed that dead boy.” Walter’s reaction to Patrick’s suicide speaks to his feelings about his own sexuality. The tension of the novel hinges on the secrecy in which people who identify as homosexual are forced to live and love in a poisonously Catholic environment (not that each and every Catholic environment is poisonous; I’m speaking specifically of the one in this novel). The relationship between Max and Walter mirrors that of Patrick and Ginger: they have kept it secret for seventeen years, terrified of losing their jobs because of their sexuality. This theme, of course, questions the demonising of non-heterosexuality. Ginger unable to come out publicly, his head guidance counsellor and principal obligated to hide their relationship for nearly two decades. Secrecy is what tears at their skin, clamps down on their lungs. Secrecy forced by an environment that views them as sinners for a choice that isn’t a choice. Patrick’s suicide shoves those around him into confrontation with their secrets. The multiple characters that Monoceros follows demonstrate how people inscribe others’ deaths onto their own lives. Walter, regretful. Max, thankful it didn’t happen on school property. Petra wants her sweater back, the one she gave Ginger and then Ginger gave Patrick. Faraday, hopeful, believing unicorns can unleash happiness for the people who surround her, heal the hurt with their alicorns. But for the whole novel, she waits for their arrival in vain. Monoceros does not give its characters a way out; life is about moving up and in, or laying on the couch smoking pot and watching Sector Six, like Patrick’s parents end up.

The detail with which Mayr explores her characters is astounding. Her use of language is poetic and affecting, and it cuts to visceral details. One particularly effective stylistic maneuver is the obituary column – Mayr establishes the familiar form of the newspaper obituary as a method of detailing characters’ opinions of Patrick and each other. By the end of the novel this gets resignified because the form of the obit is applied to regular narrative; Mayr recasts her characters’ narratives as post-mortem flashbacks. This resignification works well because it serves as a reminder, through blending previously distinct forms, that death is inevitable (sorry for the cliché phrase), and narrative continues after death. Words live on. This continuation resonates with the characters of Monoceros, who continue to live out their stories after the suicide of Patrick Furey, in the best way they know how. Some of them stumble. Some of them gallop free. But all of them will stay with you long after you’ve tucked away the book.

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