Dave Jenkinson is a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba and the author of the “Portraits” section of Emergency Librarian.
Authored by R.P. MacIntyre and Wendy MacIntyre, who share a common surname but are not related, Apart consists of 31 letters, with 30 being exchanged between 17-year-old James Charles MacSween, aka Sween, and 16-year-old Jessica Doig. What initiates the correspondence is Jessica’s placing a “missing father” advertisement in the Globe and Mail. Sween’s July 17 response begins their letter writing that continues until October 14 of the following year. While Sween lives in Saskatchewan and Jess in Matagouche, NB, they share having unhappy home lives. Jessica’s drug-dealing, womanizing father, Gunner, has taken off with his latest conquest. Jessica really doesn’t want him to return but recognizes that her beautician mother, who has turned to alcohol and pills, “needs” Gunner. Sween’s controlling professor father has put Sween on a short leash following Sween’s expulsion from three schools within two years. Both teens have a younger sibling, and Sween recognizes his 13-year-old sister, Suzanne, is becoming withdrawn under their father’s dominating personality while Jess’s 10-year-old autistic brother, Timmy, whom she dearly loves, lives under Gunner’s threat of being institutionalized. After some seven months of letter writing, Sween decides to drive to New Brunswick to meet Jess, a trip interrupted by his having an emotional breakdown. When Sween completes the journey four months later, readers, having recognized the pair’s increasingly affectionate bond, will be surprised that their face-to-face meeting does not go the way either expected it to. Sween’s closing letter, written almost a year after their encounter, provides closure on the pair’s relationship. Highly recommended.