by Nicole Chardenet
Deux Voiliers Publishing 2013
Reviewed by Carlos Savanera
Canadian humour?! Since Leacock? From Toronto? You gotta be kidding! Well, that was my first reaction when Sumer Lovin’ was pitched to me for a review. I was wrong. Nicole Chardenet has certainly pulled off a Canuck version of Woody Allen. Beyond a doubt, this hilarious story is the best humour from Canada in a decade.
Sumer Lovin’ combines a mischievous poke at Canadian über-politeness and Toronto's unter-machismo with a wicked use of Sumerian mythology. The heroine, Rachel Brinkerhoff, is a very attractive 41-year-old New Yorker, who has fled the Big Apple and her psychotic ex, Austin, a Homeland Security Rambo. Her goals are to re-establish her matchmaking business in Toronto and find a Canadian soul mate. Pretty simple, eh? Well, Toronto ain’t New York and finding Jewish singles to match up is pretty slim pickings. As for finding a new soul mate, as author Nicole Chardenet puts it, it is BYOB – bring your own boy.
The solution? Rachel teams up with Mahliqa and Amita, immigrants from Pakistan and India, who run Love Comes Later, a service to counsel Canadian parents who want to “arrange” marriages for their hapless progeny. Thus enters Dave the Tarantula Guy and Dave the Gerbil Guy, typical IT nerds who are more drawn to arachnids and rodents than to the vivacious, albeit demanding, women that Rachel, Mahliqa and Amita line up for them.
When all seems hopeless, an earthquake mystically shakes up the libido of Torontonians and opens a portal to an ancient underworld. Out of the fountain at Nathan Philips Square, emerges the lascivious Lamashtu, a Sumerian demigoddess. The divine Lamashtu, famished by her centuries-long celibacy, goes right to work to replenish her powers by sucking out the energy of the city’s myriad male virgins. When her Sumerian sights set on Dave the Gerbil Guy, Rachel is caught up in a wild rescue plan to save her client from Lamashtu’s nasty and lethal little “surprise.”
Lamashtu is not the only trimillenarian to cross through from the underworld. An army of Canaanite warriors march forward, guided by their map-challenged scribe who confuses Canada for Canaan. Their mission is to lay claim to their ancestral homeland and boot out every “squatter” since the first millennium A.D. When the Canaanites realize that their land claim is six thousand miles off the mark, they offer their martial skills to help Rachel and her friends save Toronto from Lamishtu's murderous intent. The new alliance proves promising in more ways than one as Rachel finds herself drawn to the bronzed and well-muscled Canaanite leader, Ammishtamru.
Chardenet, herself an American transplant, has earned her spurs in Sumer Lovin’. The humour is on par with the best of Canadian comedians, who have made their names on the silver screen – Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, Martin, John Candy, Dan Akroyd and the list goes on. Sumer Lovin’ is a delightful, absolutely zany story, which pushes the boundaries in many directions. A highly recommended read for 2013.