The Only Café: A Novel - Linden MacIntyre

One of my favourite reads in 2017!  I had absolutely no expectations when I found this at my local independent bookstore @BooksWordsWorth.  What caught my attention was the title because The Only Cafe is a real place - a self-described combination espresso bar and pub made famous by one of my favourite bands, The Lowest of the Low.  Their songs contain many references to Toronto landmarks, including "The Only" on Danforth Avenue in Toronto.  I've even been known to have a beer or two there myself...

 

"LINDEN MacINTYRE's bestselling first novel, The Long Stretch, was nominated for a CBA LIbris Award and his boyhood memoir, Causeway: A Passage from Innocence, won both the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Nonfiction and the Evelyn Richardson Prize. His second novel, The Bishop's Man, was a #1 national bestseller, won the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Dartmouth Book Award and the CBA Libris Fiction Book of the Year Award, among other honours. The third book in the loose-knit trilogy, Why Men Lie, was also a #1 national bestseller as well as a Globe and Mail "Can't Miss" Book for 2012. MacIntyre, who spent 24 years as the co-host ofthe fifth estate, is a distinguished broadcast journalist who has won ten Gemini awards for his work" - Penguin Random House Canada

In The Only Cafe, we meet Cyril Cormier who was a teenager when his father went missing after his boat exploded.  A successful lawyer, Pierre Cormier was embroiled in a corporate scandal at the time of his disappearance.  We quickly learn that Pierre had many secrets, not the least of which have to do with his country of birth - Lebanon which he fled because of a civil war.  The story starts five years after Pierre's disappearance when at last, he is legally declared dead after the discovery of a bone and piece of jewellery is linked definitively to him.  Instead of a funeral, Pierre Cormier requested a "roast" at The Only Cafe, an east end bar that his family had no idea he frequented.  Pierre also specified a guest list that included a name that his family did not recognize - Ari.

 

Cyril, now an intern for a television news station, begins looking into his fathers past, his link to the mysterious Ari and his eventual death in the unexplained boating accident.

 

The point of view changes between Cyril and his father and while I don't always enjoy books with changing POV's, in this case it flowed well and was necessary to the story.  The story switches between Cyril current day, Pierre as he dealt with the scandal just prior to the boating accident and Pierre's past in Lebanon. I knew nothing about the civil war in Lebanon and the massacre at the Sabra and Shatila camps in September of 1982 and while heartbreaking to read about, it should never be forgotten.  Linden McIntyre's knowledge of these events is evident in the details woven through the story.

 

I couldn't put this book down!  A wonderfully written, compelling story that mixes fact with fiction very effectively.  Highly recommended.  Don't miss it!