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Cures for Hunger
     

Cures for Hunger

by Deni Ellis Bechard
 

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“As the motor’s vibrations cradled me, I tried to envision my life. I saw the red lines of highways on the map, stretched between cities like threads of torn cloth. I imagined a book that could hold it all together, plains and mountain ranges, dust-drab towns beyond interstates, and somewhere on the far edges, the valley in British Columbia and those

Overview

“As the motor’s vibrations cradled me, I tried to envision my life. I saw the red lines of highways on the map, stretched between cities like threads of torn cloth. I imagined a book that could hold it all together, plains and mountain ranges, dust-drab towns beyond interstates, and somewhere on the far edges, the valley in British Columbia and those nights in Virginia when I snuck out and stalked the highway, trying to fathom where I belonged on this threadbare continent.”

As a child, Deni Béchard has no idea his family is unusual. His mother is from Pittsburgh and there is a vague sense that his father is from Quebec, but when Deni is assigned to complete a family tree in school, he begins to wonder why he doesn’t know more about his father’s side of the family. Who is André Béchard, and why do the police seem so interested in him?

Soon after Deni’s mother leaves his father and decamps with her three children to Virginia, Deni learns that André was once a bank robber, a revelation that sets his imagination on fire. Boyish rebelliousness soon gives way to fantasies of a life of crime. At once attracted and repelled, Deni can’t escape the sense that his father’s life holds the key to understanding himself, and to making sense of his own passions and longings. Only when he goes off to college does Deni begin to unravel the story of his father’s life, eventually returning with it to the Quebecois family that André had fled long ago.

At once an extraordinary family story and a highly unconventional portrait of the artist as a young man, Cures for Hunger is a deeply affecting memoir, by one of the most acclaimed young writers in the world today.

Deni Y. Béchard was born in British Columbia and raised in Canada and the United States. His articles, stories, and translations have appeared in a number of magazines and newspapers. His first novel, Vandal Love, won the 2007 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. He lives in New York City.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In the opening pages of Béchard's memoir, we learn that his duplicitous, bank-robbing father, André—to whom the bulk of the book is devoted—committed suicide "in a house empty but for a single chair…on the outskirts of Vancouver." Begun just three months after his father's death, Béchard's story is the result of "seventeen years of rewriting," and the process shows in the prose, which vacillates between that of a pretentious, if talented, young writer, and an adult whose understanding of his troubled youth has been refined by years of reflection and searching. Nevertheless, Béchard powerfully evokes the ever-present tension between the author and his parents ("Our family always seemed on the verge of disaster, and then the danger passed, and very little changed."), as well as his own struggle to emulate and escape his father. At once a quest to uncover the details of André's life—including his real name (Edwin), the town in Quebec from whence he came and the family he left there, and a criminal record that led one of André's sisters to remark, "‘Il ne faisait rien à moitié.'—He didn't do anything halfway."—Béchard's story is also one of personal discovery, and a teasing out of the function of memory: what it keeps, what it loses, and what it saves. (May)
Kirkus Reviews
Béchard (Vandal Love, 2006) comes to terms with the painful legacy of his father, a suicide at 56. At first, the author's portrait of his childhood in British Columbia seems yet another snapshot of a dysfunctional family. Dad, reckless and macho, was always beating people up and getting visits from the police; he fought constantly with Mom, who eventually took the kids and returned to her native Virginia. By that time the author was 10, torn between admiration for his father's swaggering and fear of its consequences, André, as his wife and children called him, had assumed many names since leaving his French-Canadian family in provincial Quebec and embarking on a criminal career that included bank robbing and jail time. He went straight after he married but remained angry and conflicted, often telling Deni "you're like me" and seeming to half-want his son to take up his old lawless life. Béchard, who initially hated school but loved to read and yearned to write novels, didn't know what to make of his father's mixed signals or his own mixed feelings. His memoir gains power and clarity from the author's searching, scrupulously honest chronicle of a lengthy process of alternating alienation and reconciliation. Against considerable financial and emotional odds, Béchard entered college in Virginia. This act of defiance won him André's grudging respect and launched a series of late-night, long-distance conversations in which the elder Béchard mused over his turbulent life while the younger took notes and promised to write his father's stories. After years of refusing to discuss his origins, in their last phone call André gave his son his birth name and the names of his mother and hometown. Two years after his death, the author went to Quebec and confronted the roots of his father's malaise, in some ways preordained by family dynamics and yet fundamentally self-chosen. A poignant but rigorously unsentimental account of hard-won maturity.
From the Publisher
"Captivating and poignant memoir . . . Deni Y. Béchard's prose brims with nuance as his characters move across a continent and leave the reader richer for accompanying them. . . . a must-read for anyone who has mused about the ways in which parents' actions can affect their children . . . a heartfelt depiction of the long road taken to a better understanding of the complexity of the parent-child bond." — Joseph Hnatiuk, Winnipeg Free Press

"A complex tale, full of bittersweet encounters, rage, love, and sorrow." — Alexander Varty, straight.com

Best book to bring on a soul-searching solo trip: "Beautifully written memoir." — thetyree.ca

"Ragged and rough on the surface, tender and aching underneath, Bouchard's writing style reflects what may be the real subject of this memoir; his own youthful bravado." — Barbara Black, Montreal Gazette

"A spare, raw, haunting memoir about living in the shadow of an enigmatic man. . . . Deni Y. Béchard is a writer to watch." — Booklist Online

"Béchard's whiplashing sentences have an intimacy. . . . Clever, superbly paced and crafted, sincere and very affecting." — Martyn Bryant, Roverarts.com

"Béchard's memoir is alternately funny and poignant, with a meditative, leisurely pace. . . . embedded with insights. The complexities of hunger are the core of this story. Hunger is not simply a clawing emptiness in the belly: It is the yearning "for truth, for love, for a single thing that we can trust" it is "the perfect pleasure of wanting." . . . Ultimately for Béchard, writing is freedom and Cures for Hunger is both a journey and a coming home." — Ami Sands Brodoff, Montreal Review of Books

"A coming of age story with rare and loving insights into the vulnerable hearts of men and boys — and the women that help shape them." — The Huffington Post

"A poignant but rigorously unsentimental account of hard-won maturity." — Kirkus Reviews

"Cures for Hunger illustrates the ways in which storytelling can act as a means of self-discovery . . . much more than a memoir of youthful misadventure, though it contains plenty of that. It's also an exploration of the oppression of lineage, of familial duty, wanderlust, and perennial dissatisfaction, and the most American theme of them all: personal reinvention." — The Iowa Review

"Béchard powerfully evokes the ever-present tension between the author and his parents . . . as well as his own struggle to emulate and escape his father . . . Béchard's story is also one of personal discovery, and a teasing out of the function of memory: what it keeps, what it loses, and what it saves." — Publishers Weekly

"Cures for Hunger is a poignant adventure story with a mystery . . . But it is also, perhaps even more so, the story of an artist coming of age. Readers will be reminded of James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man." — The Plain Dealer

A Best Book of the Year So Far and Best Biography/Memoir of the Year So Far — Amazon.ca

Marlon James
"You haven't read a story like this one, even if your father was the kind of magnificent scoundrel you only find in Russian novels. Béchard is the rare writer who knows the secret to telling the true story. Just because the end is clear doesn't mean the bets are off."
Elizabeth McKenzie
"Béchard writes that prison taught his father 'the nature of the self, the way it can be shaped and hardened.' As in a great novel, this darkly comic and lyrical memoir demonstrates the shaping of its author, who suffers the wreckage of his father's life, yet manages to salvage all the beauty of its desperate freedoms. Béchard's poetic gifts give voice to the outsiders of society, and make them glow with humanity and love."
Leonard Gardner
"A moving story of rebellion, lost love, criminal daring, and restless searching. Driven above all by the need to grasp his father's secrets, Béchard has written his narrative in skillful, resonant prose graced with a subtle tone of obsession and longing."
Claire Bidwell Smith
"This powerful and haunting memoir is a must-read for anyone who has struggled to uncover their identity within the shadow of a parent. In exquisitely sharp prose, Béchard renders his attempts to understand his father's mysterious existence. This book is huge and achingly true."
Winnipeg Free Press - Joseph Hnatiuk
"Captivating and poignant memoir... Deni Y. Béchard's prose brims with nuance as his characters move across a continent and leave the reader richer for accompanying them. ... a must-read for anyone who has mused about the ways in which parents' actions can affect their children... a heartfelt depiction of the long road taken to a better understanding of the complexity of the parent-child bond."
istraight.com - Alexander Varty
"A complex tale, full of bittersweet encounters, rage, love, and sorrow."
thetyree.ca
"Best book to bring on a soul-searching solo trip: 'Beautifully written memoir.' "
Montreal Gazette - Barbara Black
"Ragged and rough on the surface, tender and aching underneath, Bouchard's writing style reflects what may be the real subject of this memoir; his own youthful bravado."
Booklist Online
"A spare, raw, haunting memoir about living in the shadow of an enigmatic man. ... Deni Y. Béchard is a writer to watch."
Roverarts.com - Martyn Bryant
"Béchard's whiplashing sentences have an intimacy. ... Clever, superbly paced and crafted, sincere and very affecting."
Montreal Review of Books - Amy Sands Brodoff
"Béchard's memoir is alternately funny and poignant, with a meditative, leisurely pace. ... embedded with insights. The complexities of hunger are the core of this story. Hunger is not simply a clawing emptiness in the belly: It is the yearning 'for truth, for love, for a single thing that we can trust' it is 'the perfect pleasure of wanting.'... Ultimately for Béchard, writing is freedom and Cures for Hunger is both a journey and a coming home."
The Huffington Post
"A coming of age story with rare and loving insights into the vulnerable hearts of men and boys — and the women that help shape them."
The Iowa Review
"Cures for Hunger illustrates the ways in which storytelling can act as a means of self-discovery... much more than a memoir of youthful misadventure, though it contains plenty of that. It's also an exploration of the oppression of lineage, of familial duty, wanderlust, and perennial dissatisfaction, and the most American theme of them all: personal reinvention."
The Plain Dealer
"Cures for Hunger is a poignant adventure story with a mystery... But it is also, perhaps even more so, the story of an artist coming of age. Readers will be reminded of James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man."

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781571313317
Publisher:
Milkweed Editions
Publication date:
05/15/2012
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
1,218,251
Product dimensions:
8.68(w) x 5.64(h) x 1.08(d)

Meet the Author

Deni Y. Béchard was born in British Columbia to a loving and health-conscious American mother and a French-Canadian father with a penchant for crime and storytelling. He grew up in primarily in B.C. and Virginia, but an insatiable drive for travel and experience led him to roam widely across North America. Cures for Hunger focuses on the experiences and effects of his nomadic childhood.

Béchard’s first novel, Vandal Love, (Doubleday Canada, 2006) won the 2007 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for the best first book in the entire British Commonwealth. He has been a fellow at MacDowell, Jentel, the Edward Albee Foundation, Ledig House, the Anderson Center, and the Vermont Studio Center, among others. His articles, stories and translations have appeared in a number of magazines and newspapers, among them the National Post, the Harvard Review and the Harvard Divinity Bulletin. He has reported from Iraq and Afghanistan, among other places, and has lived in over thirty countries. When not traveling, he divides his time between Tokyo, Cambridge, and Montréal. Cures for Hunger and Vandal Love are his first—and simultaneous—book-length publications in the United States.

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