Book Review: Late Nights on Air

Posted on May 26, 2005

This novel was created around a small, lonely radio station in Yellowknife. While the rest of the world has switched to TV, Yellowknife has only radio. The radio signal is like a warm fuzzy lifeline cutting through the arctic landscape. The author's description of how different people interact with the radio is the most interesting part of this book. The connection that forms between a broadcaster and a listener in a small town setting is a particularly powerful image. The idea that one can fall in love with a voice on the radio, without even meeting the person is entirely believable.

As a kid, I used to lay awake for hours and listen to the radio. I was fascinated by radio plays and talk shows on the CBC especially. This shared experience made it easy to relate to some of the characters as similar experiences are part of several characters' back-stories.

I have two major problems with this book
1) The relationships between characters reek of a sort of narrative convenience usually reserved for cheap romance novels. Particularly, Harry and Gwen hooking up in the last pages of the book was altogether unbelievable. I would have much rather the book ended without this last chapter, especially given the brevity with which this new relationship was discussed - At least we could have been given a reason why Gwen would be willing to give up her marriage and child for a fling with a geriatric.

2) Interesting sub-plots were neglected! I found the plot of the Mackenzie pipeline vs native interests very interesting. When Harry, Gwen, Eleanor and Ralph set out of their canoe trip, I fully expected this sub-plot to find it's way into the main storyline. Instead, the plot seemed to just be dropped.

A second subplot which was also more interesting that the main "canoe trip" plot was the take over of TV in Yellowknife. I would have gladly read more about that, possibly from the view of the natives.

The main plot actually seemed to have very little bearing on anything else in the book, aside from some character development of Eleanor, Gwen and Harry. It did provide several opportunities for Hay to slap me across the face with symbolism (usually in the form of unlikely animal encounters), but I guess that's required of anything qualifying as "literature" these days.

I still think the book is a nice, easy, relaxing read... maybe a fan of romance would find this a refreshing break from the stack of Harlequin's.

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Mike at Chance Cove, NL - photo by Angelina Friskney,