Stuart McLean
Penguin Books 2012
241 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-14-317604-6

Reviewed by Hayley Rickaby

Stuart McLean, one of Canada’s most celebrated storytellers and author of national best sellers, has done it again, publishing an eighth book in his globally acclaimed and widely popular Vinyl Café series. The eighth book, The Revenge of the Vinyl Cafe, follows McLean’s beloved fictional family of Dave, Morley, and their two children, Sam and Stephanie, not to mention their neighbors, friends and family. The title, The Vinyl Café, which is also the name of McLean’s radio show on CBC, was taken from the name of Dave’s independent record store. The individual stories of fifteen pages or less take place in a small Toronto neighborhood where Dave and his family reside, and also in Dave’s hometown of Big Narrows on Cape Breton Island.

 The stories in the The Revenge of the Vinyl Café are all connect by one distinct theme, the exploration of one’s fears. Whether it be childhood fears that are carried on into adulthood or nonsensical fears that can neither be sourced nor explained, this compilation of stories highlights them all. Dave, for instance, a father in his forties, is fearful of germs, dolls and his nosey overbearing neighbors. His wife, Morley, displays more rational fears like that of unexpected visitors and judgment of her messy home.

One of the stories, Code Yellow, takes place in a Toronto hospital where Dave, who has been admitted to hospital many a time as a result of his numerous misadventures, visits his friend Marty. Marty, who is on the slow road to recovery after suffering a stroke, needs some cheering up. With the help of a wheelchair and a quick wardrobe change into a hospital gown so Marty won’t feel out of place, Dave springs his friend free for a short stroll to a coffee shop down the road. Though hospital protocol isn’t as lax as it used to be, when they return a code yellow is sounded, which signals that a patient has gone missing. The description of the patient sounds a lot like Dave. Chaos ensues, as well as a near misguided proctology procedure. In the end, Dave’s fear of germs becomes the least of his worries.

Another story, Macaulay’s Mountain, takes place in the town of Big Narrows on Cape Breton Island. Dave’s son Sam visits his grandparents with his best friend Murphy and together they find an abandon motor-less car on the top of a mountain. The first thing that comes to mind for the boys is dead bodies. Would there be one in the rusted old car? Or a skeleton maybe? Unfortunately,  no, but when the boys put their sleuthing skills aside they decide to go on a joy ride, coasting the car down the side of the mountain. After the ride, the boys are overcome with guilt for stealing the old rusted car and deiced to turn themselves into the police. But when they bring the policeman to the scene of the crime, mysteriously the abandoned heap has disappeared only to have been put back in it’s rightful place on top of the mountain.

These stories and many more are waiting to be discovered in Stuarts McLean’s wonderfully written, The Revenge of the Vinyl Café. McLean’s unique narrative, a combination of humor and sincerity, will make you laugh-out-loud one moment and feel a tug at your heart strings the next. The Revenge of the Vinyl Café is a quick, easy and enjoyable read. Though the pieces in this book are entertaining, there is nothing that can beat listening to an adventure about Dave and his family on CBC radio by none other than the master storyteller himself, Stuart MacLean. 

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