I’ve just finished The Beautiful Children, a poetic novel by BC writer Michael Kenyon, and feel I’m waking from a trance. In Kenyon’s mystifying story one’s never quiet sure what’s real and what’s imagined, or how the author – who hass previously published four books of fiction and two poetry collections – manages to shape-shift this harrowing tale about urban street kids and lost adults into a book that celebrates life. That sleight-of-hand, Kenyon’s musical language, and the book’s surrealistic qualities are its charms.
The plot is easiest to follow in the first of the book’s three sections. Sapporo, a Japanese man, awakes with amnesia and finds himself in a hospital. In time he leaves the hospital with his son, a boy of ten. The awkward pair play catch, and at home, the uneasy roommates are “two animals who were shy of each other.”
Sapporo regularly sees a therapist, but as time progresses he sinks further into his dreamlike world. He tracks the passing of time and records impressions but doesn’t understand their meaning. And he has no idea how to parent: “Every night I dreamed I knew what I was doing, but when I woke it wasn’t true.”
This is not a linear novel, by any stretch. The two central characters embark on disparate and desperate journeys; indeed, the journey itself is Sapporo’s only hope: “As long as I kept going forward I wouldn’t lose my balance.”
We meet the characters each connects with, many of whom are equally lonely and confused. The tribe of “beautiful” children, named for birds, speak a street language and live under boxes. The children are abused, violent, addicted, smart, crazy, and sometimes just like other kids, for whom swimming in a river is a thrill. They’re also increasing in numbers. “One child would vanish and two take its place. We roamed the suburbs looking for recruits.”
Near the beginning, Sapporo says, “I wanted something. I wanted to be loved.” And so do the street kids who live beneath tarps, beneath bridges, and far beneath any semblance of a “typical” teen-aged life. And so, friends, do we all.
The Beautiful Children is published by Thistledown Press. It deserves more than one read.
THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM