Friday, October 28, 2011

“The Gift of the Game: A Father, A Son and the Wisdom of Hockey” by Tom Allen, reviewed by Reviewed by F.H. Lee

Random House, Toronto, October 2005, nonfiction, 256 pages

Having just poured through the fiction works of Steinbeck and Hemingway, in order of the year they were written (yes, just for fun!) I was looking for something quick and compelling, but personal to throw into the mix.

I picked up The Gift of the Game – rather dubiously, I confess. I am not a hockey fan (long story, my father's fault...), nor a non-fiction buff, so it was hard to bring myself to pick up the book. It was harder yet to put it down. One sitting. One read. Done!

Tom Allen is familiar to me from CBC Radio Two. As a broadcaster, storyteller, musician and father, he has a massive amount of knowledge about music and life experience, but it is his delivery – his story-telling – more than his wisdom or talent that drew me to this book.

I’m not going to compare Allen to Steinbeck, howeverrrrr I was struck by the way that both gentleman craft a story, deliver the bad news first, build up the emotion around the characters, and then lay the story humbly at the reader's feet for contemplation.

In the Gift of the Game, Allen uses his talents to show us how he and his son maintained and deepened their relationship through the break-up of his marriage and into his son’s teen years through their mutual love of hockey.

The separation of any couple with children is chaos. The concept of failed relationships can make you squirm if you are looking for lightweight words to fill a pocket of free time. Allen achieves the difficult task of forcing us to look past our pity by using humour to celebrate each small but riveting accomplishment.

I like to think that I understand hockey better now and the role it plays in Canadian relationships, male or female. A breath of fresh crisp exhilarating air!

Francine Lee can be found most days on a picnic with her 4 kids, combining her 4 most cherished things: travel, nature, food, books!

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