“As the motor’s vibrations cradled me, I tried to envision my life. I saw the red lines of highways on the map, stretched between cities like threads of torn cloth. I imagined a book that could hold it all together, plains and mountain ranges, dust-drab towns beyond interstates, and somewhere on the far edges, the valley in British Columbia and those nights in Virginia when I snuck out and stalked the highway, trying to fathom where I belonged on this threadbare continent.”
As a child growing up in rural British Columbia, Deni Béchard had no idea that his family was extraordinary. With a father prone to racing trains and brawling, and a mother with interest in health food and the otherworldly, Deni finds pleasure in typical boyish activities: fishing for salmon with his father, and reading with his mother.
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 is a vague sense that his father is from Quebec, but why the mystery? When his mother leaves Deni’s father and decamps with her three 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 greedily. At once attracted and repelled, Deni can’t escape the sense that his father’s life holds the key to understanding himself, and to making sense of his own passions, aversions, and motivations. Eventually he moves back to British Columbia, 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.
At once an extraordinary family story and a highly unconventional portrait of the artist as a young man, Cures for Hunger is a singular, deeply affecting memoir, by one of the most acclaimed young writers in the world today.