Mad Dog, by Kelly Watt, is a tale that both captivated and terrified me. The writing is exquisite. Ontario summers, circa 1960, evoke the scent of apple orchards, the itchiness of sand inside a bathing suit, and windblown rides in the back of a Bonneville. Then there’s the experience of tentative first-time explorations of sexual arousal—the curiosity, the thrill, and the fun.
But there is a memory in this book, and it is the memories that unsettle the young protagonist. She can’t place them, yet they feel real. They are thematic and become more layered and more disturbing as summer slips into autumn.
Within the first few pages, this reader’s sense of foreboding was on full alert. I wanted to scoop up the protagonist and take her out of harm’s way. But then I too was lulled by the heat, the nuzzling of bees in blossoms and the sense of being safe in Canada while radio news relayed civil unrest and police brutality in the USA.
In closing, I will say this: the canine in this story is not the mad dog. And when you read this book, do so with the lights on.
Bonnie Lendrum is the author of Autumn’s Grace, the story of how one family manages the experience of palliative care with hope, humour, and knowledge, despite sibling conflicts, generational pulls and career demands.