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Past Perfect

[At] the start of The Discovery of Honey, a coming-of-age story by Canadian writer Terry Griggs that I encountered last year ... it was another case of love at first line and I knew in an instant I wouldn’t be putting the book down until I’d finished it. It was a good decision: the hours I spent in the company of Hero, Discovery’s precocious narrator, were a delight ...

I’m happy to report that Griggs is back with a book that’s even better. The Iconoclast’s Journal is ribald and rambunctious like its predecessor, carrying you away with words as only a real writer can, but the greater pleasure of it is where it travels. Whenever you think you know where the tale is heading it zigs once and zags twice, bringing you to places you never imagined going.

Set among the ramshackle boom-and-bust towns of the late nineteenth century, The Iconoclast’s Journal kicks off with a literal bolt of lightning ...

While we’re on the subject of the nineteenth century, I also want to mention Mad Boy by Nick Arvin. Its title is the moniker earned by its protagonist, a pre-teen named Henry Phipps whose whole world is the decrepit farmstead he shares with his depressive mother and his drunken, ne’er-do-well father. Left almost entirely to his own devices, he’s not exactly wise beyond his years but he’s certainly resourceful, getting himself in and out of all kinds of trouble. When dad gets thrown into debtor’s prison, mom gets flattened by a falling cow, and the War of 1812 breaks out, Henry’s picaresque adventure really gets underway ... continued