The first question readers ask Jon Tattrie about his latest novel is which character he is: free-spirited and destructive Cain or stay-at-home dad Romeo. His answer is always neither, but decades after first writing Limerence, he says his life reflects a lot of what they learned in the story.
“When you see men portrayed on television the fun one is Charlie Sheen in Two and a Half Men and the boring one is the guy with a family,” says Tattrie. “I was struck by that reversal of centuries of a man’s role: you become a father, a provider. Now all of that seemed to get tossed out.”
The novel follows the path of Cain, a perpetually single womanizer who refuses to grow up. When he does finally achieve the goal: house, wife, and son, a man forces his way into Cain’s life insisting that he’s not Cain, but Sam Stiller, a man evading his past. The book’s underlying message, says Tattrie, is that discovering the person you really are can be a life-long journey.
The key change while spending years writing the book is that Tattrie now understands the stay-at-home dad character far more. He says early drafts should have just read “placeholder” for Romeo, a man devoted to his writing and fatherhood.
“I first wrote Limerence when I was in my 20s, single, and not living in Halifax,” Tattrie says. “I rewrote it again once I got married. And then through coincidence, the final editing was done after I had a son. Since the book has come out we’ve had a daughter. So it was interesting to pass through those phases of the book myself.”
While Tattrie isn’t either of his leads, the geography of the book is distinctly his own. His deft descriptions of Halifax will stick with local readers.
Characters Cain and Romeo spend hours drinking beer and riffing on life in the booth labelled “Local Media” at Freeman’s Little New York on Quinpool Road. When Tattrie worked at the Daily News newspaper, the booth was a regular spot for off-shift reporters.
Likewise, the concert that Leonard Cohen-fan Cain attends in the book happened at Dalhousie University’s Rebecca Cohen Theatre in 2008. “That’s how I experienced the concert, the broken guitar strap, and all,” he says.
Throughout the book, Cohen’s wisdom helps Cain get through the challenges he faces from break-ups and court cases, to losing his home and family.
“I listened to Cohen with my parents when I was about 6 years old,” Tattrie says. “I returned to him as a teenager, and then in my 20s. It’s comforting knowing that Leonard is in his 80s now, so if I make it that far, he’s already written the song; I just have to move into it.”