Listening to Fruit was like a walk back through the 1980s. Set in Sarnia, I would have missed this 2004 novel if it were not for my goal of completing the 100 Novels that Make You Proud to Be Canadian List. Fruit became my 45th book from this list and was a contender of the 2009 Canada Reads (before I became a dedicated fan of this annual battle of the books).
It is the internal monologue of a Peter Paddington, a 13 year old boy who is struggling with his weight and his identity. As a coping mechanism he begins to create bedtime “movies” in his mind, fantasies that include the fact that his nipples talk to him as his imagination distracts him from his day-to-day challenges at home and at school. Although there are some amusing anecdotes, especially with his dysfunctional family, it is heartbreaking to understand the insecurity and loneliness Peter experiences as he questions his sexuality and struggles to fit in.
It is interesting to reflect on 1980s details, stores like Consumer’s Distributing, Woolco and Suzy Sheer that were part of my own teenage years (in fact, the downtown Brantford Public Library is situated in the old Woolco location). He borrowed a sweatband and worked out to the Jane Fonda workout album. I still remember my mom’s double album set complete with pictures!
As I listened, I reflected on the challenges many young people experience and how difficult highschool can be. I think that this would be a great book for teachers to read and consider how they can support students. I hope that it would be eye-opening for students to consider how their actions and comments hurt other students while thinking about ways to support each other.
It was interesting to learn more about Brian Francis. He hails from Toronto and as I reviewed his website, I realized that I had already enjoyed his second book, Natural Order.
“I always wanted to be a writer, but I wasn’t sure how to get there. By that I mean, in order to be a writer, I had to write. Part of the problem for most young writers is figuring out what they want to write about. So I spent most of my twenties starting short stories (but rarely finishing them), penning melodramatic poems and fantasizing about how great life would be once I was a published author”. Brain Francis
Like many writers, he loves book clubs and I wonder if he would ever consider traveling West for a discussion with our Brantford book club? I would love to hear more about his writing process and after reading the above quote (from his website), I am inspired that there is hope for my dream of becoming an author!