McClelland & Stewart, 2017
Reviewed by Cole Schisler
One Brother Shy follows Alex MacAskill, a shy computer programmer who works for a tech company that produces facial recognition software. After the death of his mother, he discovers that she has been receiving monthly payments of $5,000. He also finds out he has a twin brother, and sets out to find both him and his father in a wild ride from Canada, to the UK, to Russia, and back.
Alex’s shyness stems from one traumatic incident in high school Fallis skillfully reveals in epigraphs to every chapter. Interesting anecdotes and intrigue invites readers to invest in Alex’s adventure, and to root for him, but at no point do you feel like this won’t be the outcome. The stakes felt high at the outset of the novel because we join Alex at rock bottom after his mother has just died, and he can’t even speak to his co-workers. However, after he reunites with his brother, the conclusion of the story feels inevitable.
Fallis is best known for his 2008 debut novel The Best Laid Plans, winner of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humor and the 2011 Canada Reads competition. It also aired on CBC in 6-parts and was a stage musical performed in Vancouver. His previous titles capitalize on his trademark humour as well: Up and Down, The High Road, Poles Apart, No Relation (also a Leacock winner). In 2013, Canadian booksellers made him Author of the Year.
Readers will have high expectations for a hilarious read, but several moments meant to be funny fell flat. For example, Abby, who works with Alex, is trying not to use profanity, so she uses a different F word every time she wants to swear. This quickly feels like a gimmick despite her being a likeable character.
Fallis has been a prolific and successful writer in just under a decade, averaging a book every two years. Interestingly, he hadn’t set out to write. After earning a Bachelor of Engineering from McMaster University, he worked in federal and provincial Liberal politics for various ministers before founding his own PR consulting firm and co-hosting more than 200 episodes of the business podcast Inside PR. He lives in Toronto with his wife and two sons.