Monday, February 15, 2010

Review: "Toby: A Man" by Todd Babiak

Toby Menard is a rising television star; he has his own show on television about how to be a gentleman, his girlfriend is one of the hottest TV presenters around, and his face is on billboards all over town. Then one night everything changes for him. After he rescues his father from a suspiciously burning car, and then goes to see his girlfriend and finds out that she's been cheating on him with his boss, he is unable to sleep and messes up a interview with a local politician- big time. All of the sudden Toby has no job and no prospects for getting one, and he has to sell his house and his car. Toby moves back into his parent's house and starts helping out at their failing hot dog restaurant. When he meets single mother Catherine, Toby thinks that they are both after the same thing: a night of no-strings-attached sex. It turns out that she's looking for more than that and abandons her son Hugo with Toby as she goes off in search of her birth father. Toby knows nothing about being a parent, since up until this point in his life he has been rather selfish, but he and 2-year-old Hugo quickly bond and Toby really starts learning how to become a man.

Todd Babiak has written a novel that captures the beauty of Montreal, where the book takes place, with his scenes full of decriptions of streets and homes and people. He also offers witty social commentary on what happens when you make a mistake and everyone that you thought was your friend, abandons you. Toby: A Man is about parenting, true friends, aging parents, illness, love, and above all, what it means to be a man. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The characters were endearing, especially Hugo and Toby's father, and I would have loved to be able to have them over for dinner. Toby's search for manhood is so raw and real that I rooted for him the entire way through. The ending wasn't at all what I expected, yet it certainly ended in the way that made the most sense. I plan to read Babiak's earlier novels because I enjoyed the freshness of his literary voice; he has a quality that I don't see often enough in Canadian authors.

Thank-you to HarperCollins for this review copy! You can browse inside Toby: A Man here.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Recommended to: Those who love coming-of-age stories, anyone interested in reading more Canadian authors, pretty much anyone who loves good fiction
Challenges: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge, New Author Challenge 2010

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