Book Review of No Great Mischief

No Great Mischief
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This book snuck up on me. It started so slowly, with a successful orthodontist driving to visit his alcoholic older brother. While this "current" (actually 1970s) storyline continues throughout the book, the majority of the novel consists of flashbacks which reveal the past and what brought the brothers to such different places in life.

These two brothers come from a huge Scottish-Canadian clan, descended from the twelve children of Alexander MacDonald who settled on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. The narrator is also named Alexander MacDonald, as are several other characters. Don't worry, it's not as confusing as it sounds. There are stories from the Highlands (which made me wish I knew more about Scottish history), from the narrator's childhood and young adulthood, as well as more recent interactions between him and his twin sister, who also left the poverty of island life behind.

MacLeod's writing has a distinctly Gaelic sensibility that I love: dark but warm, unapologetic, and a little bawdy. His tendency to ramble is mostly charming, but sometimes his tangents wandered a bit too far off course. Disappointingly, this is the only novel he has written. He apparently excels in the short story format, which isn't my favorite, but may be worthy of an exception in this case.