The Carnivore by Mark Sinnett

Ray Townes and his wife Mary have had a mostly antagonistic relationship over the fifty odd years of their marriage. Unfortunately  their problems started relatively early – stemming from the events surrounding 1954-  the year that Hurricane Hazel hit Toronto, and the year that Ray became a hero saving people all up and down the Humber River.

Mary has always doubted Ray’s version of the truth of what happened during the storm, and even as a young reporter has come by the house to interview Ray for a follow-up story on his heroic deeds of long ago, the truth of those nights begin to surface.  Ray’s not the only one with secrets. Mary was out and about in the storm as well, and she had business of her own that needed attending.

I have been fortunate to read some really great books over the last couple of  months and this novel joins the ranks as one of them. I read this during the Read-a-Thon and it held my attention throughout. Mark Sinnett is a top-notch literary writer and the characters that he has built-in this exploration of truth and responsibility within a marriage, were endlessly fascinating and complex. I couldn’t rush through this novel as the nuances and the flavor of the story were ones that had to be savored. Watching Ray and Mary walk the line and navigate ambiguous moral situations and negotiate the terms of their marriage with one another was thoroughly absorbing.

One of the recurring themes that has been featured in a lot of my reading lately has been what responsibility we bear when our action or inaction affects the lives of other people. Events of the storm sets Ray on a path that changes the course of his marriage, and as he lays dying many years later, in the stifling environment of which he himself was the chief architect, I wanted him and Mary to be able to bridge the gap that he created and that she fueled with her reluctance. However as the story travels toward Ray’s imminent demise, and all the secrets that have been festering are laid bare,  it’s hard to see anyone with clean hands and even harder to imagine whether a path to forgiveness can be found.

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