Book Review: The Truth About Luck, by Iain Reid

The Truth About Luck
By Iain Reid
House of Anansi Press
272 pp; $18.95

Last Saturday, my grandparents were sitting in the half-light of their awning-shaded, giant-picture-windowed, little bungalow living room. Kris Kristofferson was crackling from a boombox that used to live in the garage and now rests on a Chippendale-style side table. My grandparents were born in 1928; I’ll spare you the mental math: This makes them 85 years old. They were talking, yet again, of “down east” — an expansive term that actually refers to the microscopic abode of Blackville, NB, where they were born. But this day’s story was a brand new one, spurred by the recent death of Stompin’ Tom Connors: It turns out they knew and grew up surrounded by his entire extended family. Suddenly, the room was full of laughing reminiscences — how Stompin’ Tom looked just like (and was apparently named after) a certain uncle; how one family member, my grandfather exclaimed, told so many fibs he justĀ had to keel over. And so on. Spending time with your grandparents as an adult is different than as a child: it moves from all-comfort to large-part revelation.

Iain Reid’s newest book, The Truth About Luck, rejoices in this blend of intergenerational familiarity and serendipity. He is from a close-knit family and has long known his 92-year-old grandmother; this is in part what leads him to think of a meaningful gift for her fairly significant birthday. For a moment, he settles on a scented candle — everyone likes candles, right? But, in brainstorming with his brother, it dawns on him: why not, instead of buying things, spend time? From there, he decides to take Grandma on a trip, maybe a road trip. But the this idea contracts soon after the rush of discovery: Reid begins to reconsider the logistics — his beater of a car, his lack of funds — and scales back the idea back somewhat. He decides to bring Grandma from her town, Ottawa, to his, Kingston. That’s still a trip! This turns out to either be a prescient or genetically motivated move: Grandma recounts how she and her late husband used to love micro trips — one time going only as far as a motel a few blocks away. Grandma is just as happy to go to Kingston as anywhere else.

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