[Jack Hodgin's] first book, Spit Delaney's Island, was a collection of compassionate and gracefully crafted stories set in his native Vancouver Island. This also serves as the setting for The Invention of the World, Hodgins' first novel.
In style and sensibility, both books radiate a jubilant confidence that derives from the author's subtle, bone-deep knowledge of his island. Hodgins is young, and his talent is still coltish, capable of bolting in any number of directions. The Invention of the World suggests a broadening and deepening of his artistic resources; nevertheless, by its own standards it's not as successful as some of the individual stories in the earlier book, being simultaneously more ambitious, more crazy, and more hazardous to write.
The Invention of the World weaves the tale of a bizarre religious colony, which immigrates to Vancouver Island from Ireland at the turn of the century, together with the fates of latter-day characters who inhabit the same space in a different time. It sets up correspondences between past and present, Old World and New, myth and reality, man and woman, and examines them in extraordinary detail at considerable length, requiring stamina on the author's part and even more on the reader's. Eventually one's patience is at least partially rewarded as layers of truth are peeled away to reveal a more satisfying reality than is apparent in the novel's early stages….
Hodgins gives [his] characters their own pungent, keening, individual voices and a share in furthering the splayed-out narrative. Through their searchings for a higher truth, we discover the truth about the old colony itself…. [They are sent on a pilgrimage to] a barren windswept mountaintop in Ireland, where they find—what?The difficulty of answering that question is the difficulty...
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