Deni Ellis Bechard

Cures for Hunger

A “poignant but rigorously unsentimental” memoir of one man’s search for the truth about his father’s dark past, and how it shaped his own life (Kirkus Reviews).

Growing up in rural British Columbia, Deni Béchard had no idea his family was extraordinary. He took pleasure in typical boyish activities: salmon fishing with his father, a daring man with a penchant for brawling, and reading with his mother, who was interested in health food and the otherworldly.

Assigned to complete a family tree in school, Deni begins to wonder why he doesn’t know more about his father’s side of the family. His mother is from Pittsburgh, and there’s a vague sense that his father is from Quebec, but why the mystery? When his mother leaves Deni’s father and decamps with her children to Virginia, his curiosity only grows. Who is this man, why do the police seem so interested in him, and why is his mother so afraid of him? And when his mother begrudgingly tells Deni that his father was once a bank robber, his imagination is set on fire. Boyish rebelliousness soon gives way to fantasies of a life of crime, and a deep drive for experience leads him to a number of adventures: hitching to Memphis and stealing a motorcycle; fighting classmates and kissing girls.

Before long, young Deni is imagining himself as a character in one of his father’s stories, or in the novels he devours. Both attracted and repelled, Deni can’t escape the sense that his father’s life holds the key to understanding himself. Eventually he moves back to Canada, only to find himself snared in the controlling impulses of his mysterious father, and increasingly obsessed by his father’s own muted recollections of the Quebecois childhood he’d fled long ago.

“Powerful and haunting . . . a must-read for anyone who has ever struggled to uncover their identity within the shadow of a parent.” —Claire Bidwell Smith, author of The Rules of Inheritance

Cures for Hunger is a poignant adventure story with a mystery . . . But it is also, perhaps even more so, the story of an artist coming of age.” —The Plain Dealer

“This darkly comic and lyrical memoir demonstrates the shaping of its author, who suffers the wreckage of his father’s life, yet manages to salvage all the beauty of its desperate freedoms. Béchard’s poetic gifts give voice to the outsiders of society, and make them glow with humanity and love.” —Elizabeth McKenzie, author of The Portable Veblen
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