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Caught by Lisa Moore

Caught by Lisa Moore This is a good summer for Lisa Moore. Her novel February won the Canada Reads competition this spring and everyone who did not read it when it was first published in 2009 is reading it now. This novel, a story about a family in Newfoundland - a father who dies in the tragic collapse of the Ocean Ranger, and his wife and children who must continue their lives without him - is one of the best books you’ll read.

Her new novel, Caught, is again a stellar novel – but so very different. I thought about this, and realize that it is the mark of a very fine writer that she can write two so completely different sorts of novels, both in style and content.

The brief description of Caught – a young man, a drug dealer, who has escaped from prison and is on the run – at first did not especially appeal to me and I admit I hesitated about choosing this book to read. But, I’d loved February, I like Lisa Moore – so I knew I had to give it a try – and I loved it.

We meet Slaney, David Slaney, moments after he has escaped from the prison where he has been serving time for attempting to smuggle marijuana into Newfoundland. He is a twenty-two year old looking for freedom. He cannot stand the thought of staying in prison, or of being caught and returned to a cell.

Hapless, naive but also instinctive – it is unlikely that he will succeed but you really, really want him to. Anyone my age might have known guys like Slaney back in the late 1960’s and early 70’s. Maybe not as ambitious as Slaney and his friend Hearn, the “brains” behind their ambitious plans to smuggle marijuana into Newfoundland from. But there were guys bringing marijuana in from Mexico or growing it in remote locations all over Canada. Anyone my age who swears they never smoked marijuana is probably lying. Slaney and his friends certainly smoked a lot of marijuana. It was while attending Memorial University in Newfoundland that they cooked up a plan to get rich. Just bring a boatload of marijuana in from Columbia, make a million dollars, and they’ll be set for life. Sounds too easy – and it is. Of course they are caught – and it is Slaney who does the time.

Case solved – perhaps not. There are questions never quite answered to the satisfaction of the police. Even after Slaney is sentenced they are determined to find out who was behind this foiled attempt, and to capture not only Slaney but also those who escaped the first time around.

As Slaney makes his way across the country we learn about his past, the woman he loved and loves still, although she could not wait for him, or trust him again, even if she also loves him still. His best friend, Hearn, is now living under another name and doing very well for himself. Like brothers they were, and although Slaney was imprisoned while Hearn went free, Slaney cannot help but love and trust his old friend. In all of this it is Slaney who is the good guy, the one who honestly cares for other people and helps those in need, the one who mostly trusts others – although his instinct not to trust occasionally, almost, comes to his rescue. His downfall really is that he is just too trusting, too hopeful – too much of a nice guy.

The story Lisa Moore tells us in Caught is all so plausible, and although, yes it is illegal to smuggle marijuana, it is not as if Slaney is a murderer, and you just want it all to be OK for this guy – even as you ask yourself how such a smart guy be so stupid.

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