Gorilla in the Garage, and Other Stories

Description

212 pages
$12.95
ISBN 0-919783-64-3
DDC 179'

Author

Year

1987

Contributor

Reviewed by Michael Williamson

Michael Williamson was Reference Librarian at the National Library of Canada in Ottawa.

Review

Mr. Hepworth’s first collection of short stories — and the stories are very short indeed, 22 of them in 212 pages — is solidly within the James Herriot tradition of veterinary story-telling. Instead of Yorkshire, the territory is southern Ontario where Mr. Hepworth was Chief Inspector for the Ontario Humane Society for nine years. What immediately comes to mind after reading this book is that the more exotic the animal, the more eccentric the human, and, more generally, whenever humans live alongside animals, their behaviour is often nothing less than bizarre. In a way these tales are moral fables with a comedic touch; amid the boa constrictors, gorillas, cows, bulls, dogs, pigs, horses, lions, jaguars, and various others, are some extremely strange humans who sometimes have good intentions, but most certainly display poor judgment. To his credit, Mr. Hepworth is not one of those unbearably condescending types who loves animals more than humans; he displays a fine sense of amusement and compassion for human foibles. Wry humour permeates each story as well as an underlying moral sense which rarely but sometimes erupts into proselytizing: “Man’s dominion over the beasts of the earth includes a responsibility to preserve them in their own habitat.” Well, yes, but people seem to like exotic beasts and try to incorporate them into their own worlds, usually with disastrous results.

The author’s prose and narrative skills are unhoned so that each story reads like it actually happened; there’s a strong sense of “this was followed by that, and then....” With very little embellishment. That style suits the rather phlegmatic tone of the book — a tone found often in British nature and animal tales. Mr. Hepworth keeps a fairly tight rein on himself and succeeds quite well in getting the story out and getting it out with some flair and some fun. It is, however, a restrained performance.

This is a good book for those who have fireplaces, like animals, and prefer to read indoors with a good stiff drink when it’s nasty weather outside.

 

Citation

Hepworth, Don, “Gorilla in the Garage, and Other Stories,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/34687.