Read this right now: The Antagonist by Lynn Coady.
I can’t remember the last time I was this blown away, this crumpled, this inside-out over finishing a book. Coady’s last novel, Mean Boy, in 2006, maybe.
The Antagonist is about hockey, the Maritimes, pent-up masculine rage, fathers and sons, douchey guys in university, violence, loneliness — a coming-of-age novel that is somehow both quintessentially Canadian and placelessly universal.
I don’t have time to write a longer review, but here is what other critics are saying:
Globe and Mail: “One could open a review of Lynn Coady’s new novel, this week long-listed for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, by saying it’s about a hockey enforcer. Certainly her protagonist, given the recent deaths of three real-world hockey “hit men,” arrives with a macabre, if accidental, timeliness. But The Antagonist is a full-bodied work of fiction, and to say it’s about an enforcer is like saying The Catcher in the Rye is about a prep-school student – true, but absurdly reductive, especially since this is a novel that is all about how it feels to be categorized, dismissed, reduced by the very people who should know you best.”
National Post: “Watching Rank come to terms with his past is one of the novel’s great pleasures. What begin as harassing, mocking emails to his former friend — veiled threats, wisecracks about Adam’s weight — soon evolve, almost unintentionally, into a traditional memoir, as the reader learns more about Rank’s troubled childhood (he’s the adopted son of an overbearing father and a mother who died in his youth), his university career (he earns a hockey scholarship but quits when the coach wants him to intentionally injure opposing players) and, eventually, what he’s become”
Rabble.ca: “The book is the anti-buddy film, the anti-villain, the anti-hockey novel we all quite possibly could use. I say quite possibly because I’m puzzled by the fact that the water cooler rep of this book is “the hockey book” despite how hard Coady has worked to make this possibly the most unique take on what it is to be a man raging against a man and trying to use mind over matter.”