You just don’t want to talk about it.

Whatever it is, better nobody ask you because it’s a sore subject. You’re keeping your mouth shut on that topic. Don’t ask, mum’s the word, and all that. And if anybody dares say something, well, they’re going to get the stink-eye for sure because you don’t want to talk about it.


Just remember that tender topics have a way of coming to the forefront eventually. And if not, as you’ll see in the new book “Creatures Here Below” by O.H. Bennett, words left unsaid can crack a family wide apart.

Mason Reed always wondered why his mother, Gail, never stuck up for him.

She was always yelling, grabbing him, smacking him upside the head. She was always angry and maybe it had something to do with his father, Pony, who left Mason and his mother when Mason was just a baby.

Whatever the reason, her anger lingered and on the night that he almost smacked her first, Mason caught himself, then left the house for good without saying goodbye.

Not knowing where her son went made Gail frantic. She couldn’t stand to lose another child.

Years ago, when she was just 14, she got pregnant and her mother lied, saying the baby died at birth but Gail knew better. She saw tiny fists waving and heard a cry. But in dreaming of how life might’ve been with a daughter, Gail also ached for her firstborn son.

Annie Gant knew what it was like to have empty arms. Once upon a time, Annie helped another family raise their boys and keep their house but she gave the job up to marry her Joseph. Those were good years but now everyone was gone, and 89-year-old Annie lived in an upstairs room in Gail’s boarding house, left only with memories and a dozen phantom dogs.

Jackie Bell never planned on getting pregnant by a white boy, but she did. And she never wanted to be tied down, living in a rooming house with her baby, an addled old woman, a ticked-off landlady, and boy gone missing, but she was.

And what Jackie did about it almost blew Miss Gail’s household apart.

I almost put “Creatures Here Below” aside—twice.

At the beginning, this book is a jumble. Very little of the story makes sense, and there’s a lot of back-and-forth without warning here. I struggled with what seemed like a plot gone wrong. I hoped it would get better.

And boy, did it.

After that initial confusion, author O.H. Bennett grabs his readers by the hand and leads us through a house of miscommunication where everybody thinks too much and talks too little. Despite what I thought was a rocky start, Bennett’s characters become likeable in their frailties and failures, and the back-and-forth ripens into a welcome addition.

(“Creatures Here Below” by O.H. Bennett, c.2011, Agate Bolden, $15/$17.50 Canada, 272 pages.)

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