The Things Owen Wrote by Jessica Scott Kerrin (review)
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Reviewed by
Kate Quealy-Gainer, Assistant Editor
Kerrin, Jessica Scott The Things Owen Wrote. Groundwood, 2017 [176p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-77306-029-3 $14.95
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-77306-030-9 $12.95
Reviewed from galleys Ad Gr. 4-6

When Owen accompanies his grandfather, Pops, to Iceland to donate research on the Icelandic-Canadian poet Stephan G. Stephansson to an archive there, he’s got two problems. First, he’s got to grab the notebook of his that Pops accidentally sent to the archive a few weeks ago, a notebook that contains secrets Owen would rather his family not know. Second, he’s got to figure out why his grandfather has [End Page 120] been acting so strange lately, forgetting things and sometimes seeming unaware of his surroundings. This is a love letter to the geography and culture of Iceland as well as a brief biography of real-life poet Stephansson. Unfortunately, the factual expositions are unsubtly and awkwardly inserted into the surrounding family drama, and the premise of going to Iceland to retrieve a notebook that turns out to be not at all scandalous (Owen plagiarized parts of Stephansson’s poem in his eulogy for his grandmother) is also pretty unbelievable. It does, however, show Owen as a kid who is so desperate not to fail in anyone’s eyes that he’s willing to go to nearly the end of the earth to prevent people from seeing his flaws. The storyline surrounding Pops’ slippage into dementia is portrayed with compassion, as is Owen’s determination not to see the signs of Pops’ decline. This might therefore satisfy armchair tourists, poets or biographers, fans of family dramas, or any kid who’s felt the fear of coming short of the high expectations they’ve set for themselves.

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