Raising of Voices


84 pages
ISBN 0-88753-272-1
DDC C813'.54





Reviewed by Bruce Meyer

Bruce Meyer teaches English at Trinity College, University of Toronto.


This book paints a poetic and sometimes harrowing portrait of a family
enduring madness and loneliness in Northern Ontario. In a series of
hard, often passionate, interconnected prose pieces, Hilles fashions an
episodic personal history that reads like the bildungsroman of an
individual struggling to attain clarity and peace of mind in his life.

Throughout, Hilles draws subtle parallels between the mad mother figure
of the prose pieces and the landscape itself. In “Bushed,” the
protagonist discusses his experiences in a pulp camp and the way in
which the landscape itself drove his friends to madness and, eventually,
suicide. What Hilles is attempting to say is that madness is as much an
external condition as it is an internal one, and that the quest for
sanity (as in the story “The Sleeping Giant”) is literally, as well
as metaphorically, a process of being delivered from the wilderness of
both space and imagination.

The wellsprings of psychosis—the voices that hover beneath the veneer
of reality through all these narratives and that afflict the mother in
her struggle for clarity and sanity—bubble to the surface in the final
piece, “Raising of Voices.” Here Hilles presents a masterful cantata
of fictions and self-deceptions that eventually coalesce into a profound
message of love.


Hilles, Robert., “Raising of Voices,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 19, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/6412.