January 7, 2009

The Uninvited Guest

As you can see by the cover, this hockey book is far different than most hockey books I usually take a look at.

Penned by poet-turned-author John Degen, The Uninvited Guest is a novel about a whole mess of things you would think would never work well together. But through the author's masterful crafting they do, neatly tying together hockey, backgammon, Canada, and Eastern European history.

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A fellow named Dragos Petrescu is the first Romanian-born player to win the Stanley Cup. As is tradition, Petrescu gets to celebrate with the Cup, so he brings the trophy back to Romania for his wedding day.

The Cup can not travel alone, of course. In this piece of fiction the Cup's guardian is a fellow by the name of Tony Esposito Chiello. Hmm....perhaps the author is a fan of the Chicago Blackhawks?

Chiello is new to this Cup guardianship job, handpicked by the long time Cup keeper "Two Second" Stan Cooper. Cheillo will never forget this assignment to Romania. Partly that is because he loses the Cup, which in turns leads to his life altering experience that at the end of the day will make him a better person.

This book has achieved a lot of critical acclaim, including being short-listed for Canada's prestigious First Novel Award.

Another ringing endorsement comes from the great hockey player Igor Larionov. Here's what "The Professor" had to say:

"I enjoyed this book because I've lived the inside story. The Uninvited Guest offers a fictional and philosophical lens on a wide range of subjects from the lives of professional hockey players to the keepers of the Cup to Eastern European history to storytelling, and blurs the whole spectrum together in a finale full of love, community and companionship."

But I think it was The Globe & Mail's Steven Galloway who summed this book up best when he said "rarely is an uninvited guest so enjoyable."


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