Reviewed by Ian Thomas Shaw
Da Vinci concealed details of his most marvelous inventions by writing backwards in elaborate codes that could only be read with the use of a mirror. Such is Maya Merrick’s prose.
Merrick’s talent resides in her unique ability to build her characters backwards, unlayering them as she moves you along in a narrative that is slow to start but impossible to put down. In The Hole Show, her tale of teenage misfits oscillates through time, undulates through four points of view and pivots on Plateau-Mont-Royal.
The Hole Show blends four journeys. Hicklin, taunted by derision from all around him, abandons Vancouver to start anew in Montreal. Beau, whom nature has twice blessed, leaves the family farm to seek acceptance in La Métropole. Dolly’s journey is shorter in distance but no less arduous in space. The Westmount ballerina chooses creativity over conformity—free movement over the en pointe rigour of her dance teacher. And then there is Luce, an apparition from nowhere, a sensual being with a bearclaw disposition.
In a spacious but run-down apartment over a dépanneur on Duluth Avenue, the four teenagers bond to replace their own lost families and to form a small provocative performance group. After several shows in back-alley bars, they plan a bacchanal on Hallowe’en. Theirs is a call to the youth of the city to rise up and abandon themselves, their fears and their inhibitions for one night of pleasure and self-revelation.
Set in 1972 in the aftermath of the War Measures Act, the Hole Show is a refreshing novel that tugs at the nostalgia of one’s youth—the moments of adventurous rebellion that we have all experienced and the desire for belonging and acceptance by our peers. It captures the Rubicon moment—the crossing-over from family to camaraderie, from childhood to adulthood, and pushes the boundaries of the readers’ emotions with elegance and taste.
The Hole Show is published by Conundrum Press.