The Matter with Morris, David Bergen
HarperCollins, 254 pages
Fifty-one year old Morris Schutt has created a beautiful life. His insightful, funny writing has made him one of the most popular columnists at his Winnipeg newspaper. He is married to Lucille, a respected psychotherapist, and together they have three adult children, Meredith, Martin and Libby, and a grandson, Jake. They have no financial worries. Life, as he knows it, is stable and secure.
Then one day, everything changes. Frustrated by his son’s apathy, Morris challenges him to do something – find an apartment, join the army, anything – and Martin takes him up on the offer. He enlists in the army to upset his pacifist father, is sent to Afghanistan, and is accidentally killed by a friend who is a little too careless with his gun.
After Martin’s death, the Schutt family collapses. Lucille blames Morris for the tragic consequences of his off-the-cuff ultimatum. Libby begins sleeping with a professor twice her age. Morris’s columns become too pessimistic and bizarre, so the newspaper puts him on hiatus, but not before he publicly insults the father of his grandson. He refuses to apologize, alienating Meredith and her family, and heightening the tension between himself and Lucille. A fan in Minnesota writes to him about her own son, who also has died in the army, and he finds more comfort from the words of a stranger than he does from his wife or daughters. He sleeps with prostitutes. He moves out. He mires himself in philosophy, cuts off lines of communication and withdraws all of his money from the bank.
Once Morris has stepped out of his life, what remains is his ability to write. He uses this gift to move through his own grief and to heal the brokenness of those he loves. Slowly, carefully, Morris puts the pieces of his life back together, and ultimately finds a way to carry on.
Written in a voice both intimate and forceful, The Matter with Morris will appeal to readers of Mordecai Richler and Saul Bellow.