by Anakana Schofield

Bina––pronounced Bye-na, not Bee-na––is the latest non-traditional story by Giller nominated Schofield. Told as a series of warnings scribbled on the backs of old envelopes and receipts, the titular septuagenarian bluntly describes her dangerous encounters with men. Because Bina’s convinced that he’s largely to blame for ruining her life and turning her into an emotional wreck, her main focus is the abusive freeloader, Eddie, though she also warns us about a mysterious Tall Man who recruits her into his secret group and subsequently gets her into a whole heap of trouble with the law.

While Bina’s unique style could come across as gimmicky in the hands of a less capable author, Schofield shows that she understands the confines of her narrative enough to make it compelling. She starts up close, showing off Bina’s hilariously coarse personality before stepping back and giving us a sobering view of a tragic life. And I’m interested in discussing deeper aspects of the story after this movement takes place, but the effectiveness of the movement itself makes me hesitant to do so. Quick glimpses into the nature of Bina’s work with the Tall Man through offhand remarks, for example, sent me off speculating in all sorts of wild directions, engaging me strongly in the process. Thus, as spoiling this seems reasonably likely to be able to hurt enjoyment, I’ll hold off doing so in this instance. (Contrast this against my handling of Terry Fallis’ The Best Laid Plans, where I felt the risk of ruining things through this kind of discussion was much lower.)

Though the sometimes repetitive nature of Bina’s warnings bog things down a bit in the middle, this is admittedly a small gripe when held up against everything I liked about the book. Her story is ultimately thoughtful and nuanced, though you may want to approach it cautiously if you usually find yourself preferring stories told in more standard ways.