Homecoming: A Road Less Travelled – Book Review

Homecoming: A Road Less Travelled – Book Review

By: James M. Fisher, Miramichi Reader

Miramichi author Wayne Curtis has a new collection of short stories entitled Homecoming: A Road Less Travelled (2017, Pottersfield Press). The bulk of the stories centre around two couples, Sean O’Reilly and Amy Black, and Floyd Harris and his wife Beverley. With the exception of Beverly (who is from Massachusetts), all the principal characters in the stories are from the Miramichi. Their lives begin either on the farm or as in the case of Sean and Amy, an orphanage in Bradford (aka Newcastle). There is a definite progression to each story, although it is not always chronological in order of events.

Reading a Wayne Curtis short story (or one of his many novels, for that matter) is a singular experience, one to be relished and not quickly dispensed with. The beauty of the short story format is the economy of any elaboration and how the author can make us envision places and characters in as few words as possible. While Mr Curtis is not a stark, “bare bones” style of writer, the wordage is sufficient for the ideas and thoughts to be conveyed in a comprehensive manner. Mr Curtis is an unquestionably masculine writer in the manner of David Adams Richards, but with a more resolute, nostalgic outlook on life and events.

These stories are from a time when downtown Newcastle was a bustling place, for it was the main shopping district of the Miramichi in those days before the advent of local malls and highway driving to big box store and Costco. Travel was primarily by bus or train between the scattered communities for those not able to afford a car (or cars). “It [the train] was the link to fulfilling my dreams” says young Jack in “The Train”.

These stories will likely be best appreciated by Miramichiers, but they have a timeless appeal as well, for relationships have not really changed from an internal perspective, only the external forces have evolved, and all the old ones (money, mental illness, employment) are all still there too.

Homecoming may well be the best work to date of Mr Curtis, at least in this reviewer’s estimation. Perhaps due to his age (he is in his mid-70’s now) he has a more soulful and deeper intensity behind his thoughts. At any rate, Homecoming represents the best in the short story format from one of Canada’s most underrated writers.


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