Even as a young child Leonard McKinley lives in a world of strange coincidences and biblical justice. His bike keeps crashing into the same post and a policeman tickets a mean shopkeeper for “being a dick.” Leonard makes sense of this world by keeping an ever-vigilant eye on God. This is a God whose illogical desires must be constantly gauged and who must be appeased by avoiding black floor tiles, soliciting blood donations for the Red Cross and remaining chaste even when tempted by girls who want to make out. At first Leonard is a fairly normal kid, but his interpretation of the normal perils of growing up become increasingly dark and complicated.
The Convictions of Leonard McKinley is the latest winner of the International 3-day Novel Contest and it’s not surprising that the book is fairly short and contains some passages that are clearly filler. But it’s quite successful in terms of structure, humour, character progression and unusual atmosphere, especially for an effort completed in such a short time. McLeod’s writing is clear, thoughtful and funny and he has produced an entertaining read and a few moral dilemmas. Poor Leonard seems to have all the advantages necessary to avoid a traumatic childhood but he still manages to work himself into a frenzy with his expectations for purity and virtue. The novel does come to an unexpected and disturbing conclusion, veering into territory quite unthinkable in the opening pages, as we are left to wonder when whimsy becomes fanaticism. The story works though, creating an unsettling mood and a bleak portrait of a complex character who is both believable and exaggerated at the same time. (Kris Rothstein)
Fiction, 111 pgs, by Brendan McLeod, $14.95, 3 Day Books, 200-341 Water Street, Vancouver, BC, V6B 1B8, 3daynovel.com