Cary Fagan’s Valentine’s Fall

Huddie Rosen leaves North York after high school, acquires a wife and kids and alternate world as a bluegrass musician in Prague, then revisits his former haunts in Toronto as his marriage and alternate world seem on the verge of collapse.

But there’s much more to Valentine’s Fall, the latest novel by Toronto author Cary Fagan, a fine literary craftsman whose works have included Felix Roth, The Animals’ Waltz, Sleeping Weather, The Doctor’s House and a growing list of children’s books.

At its center is an old high-school comrade, Valentine Schwartz, literally a knight in shining armour who cannot accept that his high-school sweetheart has spurned him for another, and does himself in. A symbol of pure romantic love, Valentine’s tragedy occurs during their high-school years but, coincidentally, he is being memorialized years later while Huddie’s back in town. Staying with his mother, Huddie reconnects with a stream of characters from his past as he considers whether to start fresh in Toronto.

Besides the surprising resurrection of a character thought dead, Valentine’s Fall features the emergence of a sort of authorial alter ego, a writer named Felix Roth whose novel features an X-rated plot involving a human and giant rodent. Roth’s presence adds an intriguing level of satire to the novel as well as a dimensionality that puts me in mind of opposing mirrors in a barbershop, reflecting back on each other to infinity.

Set in sterile North York, Valentine’s Fall is seemingly an allegory with a set of well-drawn contemporary characters. At its heart is the central question of how a person may go on living after his dreams have been shattered. The publisher is Cormorant Books of Toronto. ♦

© 2009