Born and raised in Lethbridge, now Montreal-based, author Mark Lavorato has created one of the most intriguing and challenging books I've ever had the pleasure of reading with his second novel, Believing Cedric. Between an unusual structure of the book itself, with chapters separated by haunted, stream of consciousness poetry, to the mysteriously non-linear essence of the plot and the troubled lives of the characters within, every aspect of this novel is unique and original.
In Believing Cedric, each chapter of the book is an examination of the complex, inner lives of nearly a dozen characters. These characters do not seem to be related at first; however, half way through the book the reader will understand the tie that binds these characters together–a man named Cedric Johnson.
Cedric Johnson is a middle-aged, mild-mannered insurance broker, and an ailing, divorced failure as a father and husband. In what we think is a serious mid-life crisis or nervous breakdown, Cedric admits that he's been seemingly slipping and sliding between past moments in his life; his consciousness miraculously transported into previous periods in his younger years. In these "twilight zone" moments, not only can Cedric revisit old places and old friends in younger versions of his now-old body, but his adult intellect and wisdom transport with him. This allows him to revisit some of his past mistakes and regrets, and attempt to right some of the things that he knew would go wrong otherwise.
It's a dark novel with some somewhat disturbing imagery and adult content. The richness and complexity of each character's story reveals the inner beauty of each living person, and the inherent value of each of our daily experiences–whether we may appreciate it at the time or not. Mark manages to find just the right balance of pathos, humanity, humour, and shock to keep those pages turning.
Each chapter of the novel represents one incident in Cedric's former years, and the same incident as affected or manipulated by others who lived through it as well, even if only superficially. Not wishing to reveal too many surprises, let it be said that all of these mysterious and strange events, and relations, are tied together and make much more sense by the conclusion of the novel.
This is a challenging read, but it is definitely worth it. A reader will walk away with a fresh new take on life, and a realization that each of us has a robust personal life and a unique set of circumstances that lead to our individualized adult perspectives on the world in which we live. The sad truth about these seemingly disconnected characters is that each of them often fails to see beyond their own lives, and is unwilling to acknowledge that all the people around them have their own stories, their own experiences, and their own unique corresponding outlook. The readers of this book may see it, thanks to Mark's amazing imagery and inventive, colourful storytelling, but the characters themselves only recognize matters of great importance after years and years of self-reflection.
This book is a great reflection on Canadian living–from settings we may recognize through cross-country travel, to the societal norms that we are expected to adhere to and the bureaucracies that are meant to keep it that way.
A gritty, original tale exploring what it means to not just be alive but to truly live, Believing Cedric will stay with you long after the tale is over. I've never read anything like it.
Believing Cedric is available on the Amazon, iTunes, Indigo, and the Brindle & Glass Publishing websites.