(Reviewed by Belinda Beaton)

“Ghosts are starting to haunt Canadian fiction….

William Gough has created a wonderful, whimsical Newfoundland Christmas haunting in his latest novel Chips & Gravey.

Gough, like Dickens, has the imaginative capacity to create characters who are lovable eccentrics.  Phonse Skiffington and Melody Lo live together and run a fast food restaurant called “Chips & Gravey.”  Phonse was born with the gift of hearing the talk of furniture and walls.  Domestic life and the bottle have silenced these voices for him.  Melody was an orphan who was left by her parents for Skipper Lo to rise.  Skipper Lo is bedridden and passes the time quoting Confucius, making decoy ducks, and watching reruns of The Newlywed Game.  Phonse’s mother has never acknowledged the death of her husband, and her life revolves around her rooftop garden of plastic flowers.

The lives of these inhabitants of George’s Cove in Newfoundland might have continued uneventfully but this Christmas Phonse meets the ghost of Nashville singer Susie Hopkins.  Suddenly he feels compelled to stop drinking so he can see her some more… Phonse and Susie act to find out why destiny would bring this blithe spirit back after 20 years, but by the end of the 12 days of Christmas the mystery is solved and there is an epiphany of East Coast rejoicing. 

Gough is a deceptively simple writer.  His forthright prose with a few subtle literary allusions is something most writers find difficult to achieve.  This is his fifth novel and it definitely has the pace, control, and humor of a mature work.

The brilliant imaginative quality of this novel makes reading it a joy.  Gough makes commonplace kitsch like pom-poms on a dashboard become beautiful.  And as Phonse falls in love with Susie, he starts to reconnect with the world around them.  Musing, he realizes “that most people are like ghosts to us.  We get used to their stories, the surprises stop, and we begin to take them for granted, not to see them at all.  We wait for the next moment to be like we thought the next moment was going to be, and then play it like a rerun on television.’

Young and old will enjoy this new Canadian Christmas classic.”