The Friends Of Meager Fortune

Written by David Adams Richards
Review by Helene Williams

From the first page of celebrated Canadian author Richards’ (River of the Brokenhearted) latest novel, the reader knows that this is going to be a story of anguish, broken dreams, death, and of everything going wrong; in spite of this foreknowledge, however, the narrative proves gripping and well worth pursuing. The time is just after World War II; the location, a small town on the Miramichi River in New Brunswick. The Jameson family is a lumber giant in the area, with competition from companies which are using more modern machinery and paying less attention to the skills and ethics of individual loggers. There’s a prophecy about the Jameson family, a curse revealed before Will and Owen Jameson were even born, that the boys would be powerful, great, and ultimately, destructive of their legacy. Every person in town, and every logger and horse on the mountain, has a memorable part to play in this tragedy.

                The Canadian wilderness is as prominent a character as any human or animal; as logging causes the forest to recede, it becomes more powerful and dangerous, with crews of men traveling further and higher in order to harvest the lumber. The word “hero” has many meanings in this story, none of which are without their dark side. The one innocent character is the Meager Fortune of the title. He is the simple soul who only sees the good in people, never the evil, yet the literal meaning of his name is what the other characters associate with their difficult lives. Told in well-wrought, sparse prose, this story of the nature of progress, man, and the wilderness is at once harsh and engrossing.