2015 Review: Autumn Leaf

 Autumn Leaf


Action-packed and breezy read with Autumn Leaf

Written by Ken Gervais 
Published by Pemmican Publications

Reviewed by Shari Narine 
Windspeaker Contributor


Autumn Leaf is the story of a friendship that develops when
three people are thrown together by circumstance in remote British
Columbia. However, like the leaf that floats on the wind, author Ken
Gervais chooses to keep the story breezy instead of delving into the
psyche of three troubled individuals, who choose not to be blown in
every direction but to take control of their paths.

The story, published by Pemmican Publications Inc., revolves around
one-time Commonwealth middleweight boxing champion Victor, now 54. It’s
easy to assume that Victor is a washed up boxer, never having been able
to recover from his bout of fame. But that isn’t the case. As the story
unfolds, it is revealed that Victor’s medic-on-the-move gig came about
because of the tragic loss of his son followed closely by the death of
his wife. Victor had a life after boxing, has money from boxing, and has
a grown daughter, who lives in Vancouver with her two children and
husband. As Victor later tells Pauline, one of the two young people he
befriends, he chose not to be around his grandchildren because they
didn’t deserve to be exposed to a man, who was always sad.

Pauline is a young, recovering drug addict, whose brother, a drug
dealer, has disappeared. She expects he has been murdered. Pauline takes
to Victor’s lessons of self-defence in only the way a woman fighting
for her life can and she repays Victor, grudgingly, by helping Victor
steal painkillers so Victor can properly treat the workers at the camp
he is stationed at.

Sean is the third member of this motley crew. He is the good looking
First Nations man that talks Victor into heading up to Fort Nelson to
work at the camp and introduces Victor to Pauline. Sean ends up
idolizing Victor and hooking up long term with Pauline.††

Autumn Leaf is not short on action. It moves quickly from
one action scene to the next, from Victor being knocked out in the bar
brawl that opens the story to Pauline knifing Victor’s attacker at the
work camp. Gervais establishes the physical setting of the work camp
well, which is where most of the story takes place, but he fails to set
up the emotional and mental aspects of working in an isolated camp. Had
he connected the characters in their isolation to the barrenness of the
wintry north, the story would have been rich.

Gervais only skims the surface of Victor and Pauline and barely
touches on Sean. Pauline is the character with the most growth, changing
from a drug addict to someone, who decides to live a clean life. Her
motivations are unclear and her struggle is not chronicled. Victor’s
attachment to these two twenty-somethings is equally unclear. He bemoans
connections and being hurt by relationships, yet he accepts the
friendship that Pauline, in particular, wants to give.

Autumn Leaf is a novella and Gervais’ debut work. Novellas
are a tricky length of work. They don’t have to be as tightly woven as a
short story but there’s not as much room to play as with a novel.
Gervais’ characters are flawed but endearing, and the setting of the
story is compelling. Deeper writing and stronger editing would have
produced an absorbing study in characters and settings. Instead, Autumn Leaf is an easy-read action novel.