No Relation has been near the top of the charts here in Canada, and all the reviews I have read have been sunny and bright. It’s a good thing I don’t have to come on here and disagree with everyone.
Earnest Hemmingway was having a bad day. He lost his job, his girlfriend, and his wallet. Many people in literature have had similar bad days, but Earnest has something they don’t. A famous name. He’s tired of people making fun of his name, or not believing it is for real.
To top it all off, his father has been putting pressure on him to come home and take his place as CEO of the family underwear company, Hemmingwear. All Earnest really wants is to write. He decides to take advantage of his sudden unemployment, start fresh, and work on his book. But, instead, he is faced with a bad case of writer’s block.
What would it feel like to go through life with a famous name? It occurs to Earnest that he is probably not the only one, so he starts a group that call themselves the NameFamers. Everyone in the group has the same name as someone famous. This part of the book could have been over-the-top, but Terry Fallis pulls it off and I thought the members of the group became a fun part of the book.
Hoping it will help Earnest to get the words flowing again, a few of his new friends encourage him to go on an Ernest Hemingway tour, stopping at all of Hemingway’s old haunts (Toronto, Paris, Spain, Key West, and Ketchum). Each of these stops result in some kind of slapstick adventure or awkward predicament for our protagonist. But will the tour work? Will Earnest get his groove back again? And, what does he decide to do about the family business?
As someone who doesn’t know a lot about Ernest Hemingway, I enjoyed going along on the tour and learning a few things. I also got to know more about Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes. In fact, it made me want to read some Sherlock Holmes stories.
If Hemingway’s writing is a competent skater crossing a frozen river, Conan Doyle’s is an elite figure skater, elaborately costumed, tossing off triple Salchows and quad toe loops along the way. Yes, both writers get you across the river, but Conan Doyle makes the journey as entertaining, significant, and rewarding as the destination.
This book is light and fun, complete with happy ending. The best way I can think of describing this book is that it is like chick-lit with a male protagonist. Earnest is a pleasant, smart, polite guy who manages to get himself featured in a you-tube video that goes viral, winds up helping a complete stranger climb onto his shoulders to dump someone’s ashes into a statue’s hat, is more afraid of small dogs than raging bulls (which is quite funny), triggers his very first barroom brawl at the age of 40, and agrees to a spying expedition of the sort that you might see in an episode of Three’s Company. I can totally see this book becoming a CBC TV mini series.
Terry Fallis is the author of The Best Laid Plans, The High Road, and Up and Down, which have all been well received. The Best Laid Plans (which I have read and recommend) was the winner of the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour, as well as the CBC Canada Reads winner for 2011. And, it has been made into a CBC TV mini series. His other books have been finalists for the Stephen Leacock Medal. Terry Fallis has a talent for good, clean humour, and I look forward to reading more of his books.