In the Lobster Capital of the World


138 pages
ISBN 0-88754-490-8
DDC C812'.54





Reviewed by Ian C. Nelson

Ian C. Nelson is Assistant Director of Libraries at the University of


Trying to sort out the hostilities, loyalties, and grudges of the
coastal New Brunswick family living in the Lobster Capital of the World
is like reading an inchoate work by Eugene O’Neill with a matriarchal
shift. The absent father (recently deceased) makes his presence
increasingly known through the two acts—some fourteen scenes, but it
is the interaction of the on-stage characters that holds us. The family
includes a taciturn son given to outbursts of verbal abuse toward the
feisty 75-year-old mother he has chosen to “remain” with, though his
morbid reclusiveness has driven him to building a camp for himself
accessible only by fording a river. Another son, a gay gallery owner
from Toronto, is trying hard to cope with a lover half his age who wants
to move in permanently. The family relationships are further disturbed
by the arrival of Pat, married for a week some fifteen years ago to the
first son, but secretly still longing for the unattainable man
represented by the latter. And the mother? Besides the unexpected death
of her husband, she is struggling with frequent blackouts and the
problems of growing old in a house and a village that are gradually
becoming too much for her. And as for the abuse she receives, she is at
least equally adept at barbed filial comments and at verbal
self-flagellation. In fact, all the characters are past masters at
calling themselves stupid and pointing out their own failures.
Depressing, perhaps, but Hannah—already the winner of a Chalmers
Award—has a good sense of drama and of climactic revelation. In the
close confines of this family he paces the articulation of truths and
needs so that what is prepared as a resolution or insight becomes a
point of suspension because of an unexpected figure lurking in the
background or happening in at just the wrong moment. This style feeds
each subsequent scene with both motivation and background and makes one
wonder whether the episodic scenes are informed by the technique of
television drama or reach further back to an Elizabethan model. The
characters are painted with strokes that are confident of their dramatic
eccentricities; the substance of the dialogue is rich in the subject
matter and issues raised.


Hannah, Don., “In the Lobster Capital of the World,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024,