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Cures for Hunger Hardcover – May 15, 2012
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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"An enormously impressive debut by a clearly gifted writer."
Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain
Shawn Lawrence Otto, The Huffington Post
"Cures for Hunger is a poignant adventure story with a mystery . . . But it is also, perhaps even more so, the story of an artist coming of age. Readers will be reminded of James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man."
Bill Eichenberger, Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Béchard's sad and moving memoir is all about secrets and regret and, ultimately, finding peace."
Jim Carmin, Minneapolis Star Tribune
"A poignant but rigorously unsentimental account of hard-won maturity."
"A coming-of-age story of lost innocence, violence, and tenderness by a writer obsessed with the man who influenced him the most but was there the least."
Jonathan Fullmer, Booklist
"Béchard's story is one of personal discovery, and a teasing out of the function of memory: what it keeps, what it loses, and what it saves."
"In Cures For Hunger, Deni Y. Bechard has created a moving story of rootlessness, rebellion, lost love, criminal daring, regret, and restless searching. Driven above all by the need to grasp his father's secrets, he has written his narrative in skillful, resonant prose graced with a subtle tone of obsession and longing."
Leonard Gardner, author of Fat City
"This powerful and haunting memoir is a must-read for anyone who has ever struggled to uncover their identity within the shadow of a parent. Written in exquisitely sharp prose, Béchard combs through his attempt to understand his father's mysterious existence with inspiring precision. This book is huge and achingly true."
Claire Bidwell Smith, author of The Rules of Inheritance
"You haven't read a story like this one, even if your father was the kind of magnificent scoundrel you only find in Russian novels. Béchard is the rare writer who knows the secret to telling the true story. Just because the end is clear doesn't mean the bets are off."
Marlon James, author of The Book of Night Women
Béchard writes that prison taught his father the nature of the self, the way it can be shaped and hardened.’ As in a great novel, this darkly comic and lyrical memoir demonstrates the shaping of its author, who suffers the wreckage of his father's life, yet manages to salvage all the beauty of its desperate freedoms. Béchard's poetic gifts give voice to the outsiders of society, and make them glow with humanity and love.”
Elizabeth McKenzie, author of Stop That Girl
"Cures for Hunger is flush with tenderness...much more than a memoir of youthful misadventure, though it contains plenty of that. It’s also an exploration of the oppression of lineage, of familial duty, wanderlust, and perennial dissatisfaction, and the most American theme of them all: personal reinvention."
Joseph Holt, The Iowa Review
Cures for Hunger is the best book I picked up at Winter Institute 7, and that alone would have made the trip worth it. The author tells the story of his extraordinary upbringing in British Columbia mostly influenced by a father who enjoyed cheating death by doing everything from racing trains at railroad crossings to fighting anyone who crossed him. The even wilder deeds of his father’s past couldn’t be kept secret, and as they were slowly revealed, this loving and bizarre Dad shaped the life of his son. Deni Bechard has done a masterful job of taking all that life has dealt him, accepting it and analyzing it in a fascinating piece of literature. I found myself alternating between cringing and laughing with each page.
Peter Schertz, Maria’s Bookshop, Durango, CO
"Deni Y. Bachard's early childhood in British Columbia was filled with a Tom Sawyerish adventure filled lifestyle that most boys could only dream of. His idol during this time was his father Andre, a no nonsense, rough around the edges French Canadian whose shady past was always only a step behind him. After a shocking split between his parents, Deni's new life with his mother in America leaves much to be desired. His inner battle between the two worlds he cherishes has him constantly guessing which path to take. Only through choosing his own way does he discover that the life he always wanted is far from the life he truly needs."
Matt Falvey, Next Chapter Bookshop, Mequon, WI
Praise for Vandal Love:
"Don't think of Vandal Love as a page-turner. It's a novel you'll want o read slowly, savoring prose that's both lyrical and gritty, able to evoke big emotions with exquisite intimacy. Deni Y. Béchard's masterful debut sweeps through North America from rural early-20th-century Quebec to an ashram in 21st-century-New Mexico, following several generations of a French-Canadian family in which 'children were born alternately brutes or runts.' Family patriarch Hervé Hervé, a farmer and fisherman who speaks of his larger children as 'keepers' (some of the small ones he actually gives away), 'had become as hard as the country...so that it was he his children now fled.' As Herve's progeny scatter south and west from Quebec, each is driven by a visceral longing to connect, whether to God or mere humans. But whatever happiness they manage to find never lasts long. Inevitably Hervé's descendants leave, or are left by, anyone who could soothe their loneliness. And the path to God is, as one character comes to realize, 'the least sure of all roads.' If this unusual story--like its characters--occasionally seems to wander without a clear destination, the final stunningly poignant pages prove that Béchard knew exactly where he was taking us all along."
O, The Oprah Magazine
"In this moving and entertaining debut, the Hervé family suffers from a genetic quirkor divine maladythat results in their children growing into towering brutes or sickly runts. In mid-20thcentury Quebec, the hard drinking patriarch Hervé Hervé reduces his family by lendingor simply giving awaythe runts, while keeping the giants for labor. Set both in Canada and several American states, from Maine to New Mexico, and spanning more than half a century, the novel divides itself between the isolated introspective pugilist giant Jude, and François, a sociable, religious runt. Though the two Hervé brothers are very different in appearance, they both feel the need to strike out alone, creating their own families and identities in transcontinental voyages. This is both a road novel and a voyage through time, with each of the book’s two parts covering the lifetimes of several family members in an examination of the Hervé lineage. Ruminations abound on sex, violence, and the bonds between people. Though Béchard (Cures for Hunger, a memoir) has a journalism background, this fiction debut, unfolding in punchy prose, recalls Márquez with a French-Canadian twist. "
Publishers Weekly (starred)
"Béchard has a voice and a vision all his own, both tough-minded and passionately emotional."
"A family mythos reminiscent of Faulkner."
Jonathan Fullmer, Booklist
An enormously impressive debut by a clearly gifted writer.”
Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Good Scent From A Strange Mountain
Vandal Loveintroduces a gifted new writer. Béchard’s surety of voice and confident narrative span declare a first rate novel and an eloquent debut.”
Commonwealth Judging Panel
Reminiscent of Proulx and Doctorow in both sweep and grace of prose, it is hard to believe that Vandal Love, so elegant and accomplished, is only Béchard's first novel.”
Dagoberto Gilb, Author of The Magic of Blood and Woodcuts of Women
The word 'masterpiece' is not to be used lightly, but one is tempted in the case of Vandal Love, for the scope of its ambition, its originality, and its muscular use of language conjure a young Faulkner, Garcia Marquez, or Steinbeck.”
Katherine Min, author of Secondhand World
Masterful storytelling and heartbreakingly beautiful writingVandal Love delivers this and more in an epic tale of love, family, and country. I could not put it down, and when the journey finally ended, I refused to lend my copy and instead bought extras to spread the joy.”
Loung Ung, author of Lucky Child and First They Killed My Father
Béchard's writing, at its strongest, flows in sonorous passages, evokes memorable landscapes, natural and urban, examines the enduring qualities of a family separated by both time and distance, and contains echoes of the magic realism of the South American master Gabriel García Márquez.”
Winnipeg Free Press
Deni Y. Béchard surpasses Kerouac in his consciousness of the French as part of a larger people, how their struggle is socially and politically situated rather than strictly personal . . . Vandal Love seems like a trans-generational On the Road, which, also infused with a kind of inherited defeatism, was the perfect Americanized expression of an unexamined Existentialism, the ultimate Beat utterance.”
The Globe and Mail
Although Vandal Love is a first novel, it reads as smoothly as if Béchard had a library to his name--mature, lyrical, tactile and at times simple, cruel and sweet. No doubt, the giant steps this young writer has taken will set him far ahead on his literary path.”
Highly original, poetically charged, compelling, beautifully crafted, visceral, sonorous, visionary. . . . Béchard's prose, at once lyrical and tight, is mesmerizing, with resonances of Marquez, Faulkner, and Ondaatjeyet it is very much Béchard's own. Vandal Love is a saga of family and history, love and isolation, strength and vulnerability, suffering and redemption.”
Off The Shelf, Boston Globe book blog
From the Inside Flap
As a child, Deni Béchard has no idea his family is unusual. His mother is from Pittsburgh and there is a vague sense that his father is from Quebec, but when Deni is assigned to complete a family tree in school, he begins to wonder why he doesn’t know more about his father’s side of the family. Who is André Béchard, and why do the police seem so interested in him?
Soon after Deni’s mother leaves his father and decamps with her three children to Virginia, Deni learns that André was once a bank robber, a revelation that sets his imagination on fire. Boyish rebelliousness soon gives way to fantasies of a life of crime. At once attracted and repelled, Deni can’t escape the sense that his father’s life holds the key to understanding himself, and to making sense of his own passions and longings. Only when he goes off to college does Deni begin to unravel the story of his father’s life, eventually returning with it to the Quebecois family that André had fled long ago.
At once an extraordinary family story and a highly unconventional portrait of the artist as a young man, Cures for Hunger is a deeply affecting memoir, by one of the most acclaimed young writers in the world today.
Deni Y. Béchard was born in British Columbia and raised in Canada and the United States. His articles, stories, and translations have appeared in a number of magazines and newspapers. His first novel, Vandal Love, won the 2007 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. He lives in New York City.
Where did such longings reside in us, passed on through blood or stories? It seemed to me then, hearing his words, that a father’s life is a boy’s first story.” from Cures for Hunger
You haven’t read a story like this one, even if your father was the kind of magnificent scoundrel you only find in Russian novels. Béchard is the rare writer who knows the secret to telling the true story. Just because the end is clear doesn’t mean the bets are off.” Marlon James, author of The Book of Night Women
This powerful and haunting memoir is a must-read for anyone who has struggled to uncover their identity within the shadow of a parent. In exquisitely sharp prose, Béchard renders his attempts to understand his father’s mysterious existence. This book is huge and achingly true.” Claire Bidwell Smith, author of The Rules of Inheritance
A moving story of rootlessness, rebellion, lost love, criminal daring, regret, and restless searching. Driven above all by the need to grasp his father’s secrets, Béchard has written his narrative in skillful, resonant prose graced with a subtle tone of obsession and longing.” Leonard Gardner, author of Fat City
Béchard writes that prison taught his father the nature of the self, the way it can be shaped and hardened.’ As in a great novel, this darkly comic and lyrical memoir demonstrates the shaping of its author, who suffers the wreckage of his father’s life, yet manages to salvage all the beauty of its desperate freedoms. Béchard’s poetic gifts give voice to the outsiders of society, and make them glow with humanity and love.” Elizabeth McKenzie, author of Stop That Girl
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Béchard explores what it means to be in limbo between craving a father’s love and being repulsed by his lifestyle. In his memoir, the author appears troubled, wanting nothing more than a strong patriarchal figure as he picks fights at school and writes dystopian fantasies in his bedroom. But his redeeming qualities are limited.
He, like his father, is charming when needed, but selfish, existing only to further himself regardless of his family’s needs. He is impassive, rough, and manipulative. He is a fighter. As André says to his son over dinner at a Greek restaurant, “You’re like me that way.” And it’s true. Béchard marks his adolescent years with a big mouth that spews lies intended to get the attention of the tough kids. He craves to be like his father during his years of robbery.
Béchard’s selfishness seems to be pitted against his father’s, bringing about the idea that father and son are mirror images of each other while still opposing forces. The two exist as foils—characters who emphasize their traits based on the contradictions of the other. Béchard’s driving force is his need for answers while his father runs from questions. Both men are stubborn, boxing with the idea of what the son should become based on what the father used to be. André’s shrewd demeanor threatens to bring his son down by attempting to dupe him into dropping out of school and becoming a boxer, while Béchard wishes to stay in school. André doesn’t want what’s best for his son. Béchard, in turn, mirrors his father by manipulation—he runs away when faced with a choice he dislikes, and then later uses it to threaten André. Despite the fact that his father is nothing more than an angry, aging man, Béchard is haunted by the unanswered questions of André’s past crimes and mysterious family.
The memoir introduces a paternal relationship that is filled with uncertainty. There are fathers who are active in their children’s lives and there are fathers who are not. At first, André is a large component of his son’s life, and then he is out of the picture, and then back in. An unstable father affects his child, and in this author’s case, creates a son that is willing to drop his mother and siblings at any cost if it means finding the father whom he feels abandoned by. Béchard forces us to look closely at the relationship between father and son—how an erratic father who is absent in his son’s adolescent life and then thrust back into it can cause more harm than if he had skipped out altogether.
Although the memoir is successful in showing the tension between father and son, at times there seems to be too much of the tension and not enough of the narrative. There are scenes in which Béchard sits in his bedroom and narrates the pros and cons about his father. Scenes like these do little to further the plot.
As the story moves forward, Béchard is absorbed in André’s crimes with alarming focus, but is then indifferent when André is willing to spill all. Here Béchard displays the idea that the interest he has in his father’s enigmatic past lies in the pursuit of it. This changes when the secrets are ready to be let out because Béchard wants to believe his father is still the dangerous and intelligent man capable of robbing banks and pounding fellow inmates into their graves. André, at first, is mysterious. But as the mystery wears away, sympathy takes its place, something his son is unwilling to give. This change in the plot shows that as the author gets older, he is aware that the similarities he shares with his father are negative ones.
Cures for Hunger exhibits Deni Y. Béchard’s ability to examine an unstable father/son dynamic and the family-fraying results. By pitting the two against each other and comparing their motives, Béchard creates a memoir that showcases a strained but caring relationship and how it develops over time.