dad says he saw you at the mall
by Ken Sparling
(Knopf, hardcover, 187p, $21.00 U.S./$28.95 Can.)

Brilliant. I know it's only the second month and already I'm breaking my promise to keep my opinions to myself, but I was so floored by this novel, Ken Sparling's first, that 55 pages into it I sat down and wrote him a thank-you letter. True. My thoughts upon completion of the book? I loved it so much that I just started reading it over again.

Ken Sparling is not only the author of dad says he saw you at the mall, he's also its subject. An autobiographical story of Sparling's seemingly staid existence—he is variously a husband, father, son and library worker in suburban Toronto—he tells his tale unconventionally through random observations ("...it seems to me all the stories people tell me these days are one long line and begin with: 'I bought these things'"), memories ("When I was in grade four, I got four red stars. No one got four red stars. After that, I was all set"), slices of life ("Sometimes I will go out to the porch and just stand there wearing her sweater. I smell Eau de Lauren. I see dogs"), interior monologues and, at times, ruminations on language itself. With his elegantly spare prose, Sparling tries to make sense of his life, his relationships and himself. Poignant and often very funny, this book merits my transgression of the review-o-matic precepts.