Deni Béchard on Father-Son Strife, Loving Literature at an Early Age, and Ghosts of the Civil War

by Will Wlizlo

One of the threads running through Deni Béchard’s highly literary, coming-of-age memoir, Cures for Hunger, is a recurring clash between father and son. The conflict stems from competing ideas about the trajectory of Deni’s life. Should he drop out of school and help run the family fish market in Vancouver, as his dad wants? Could he settle for a plodding life with his mother in rural Virginia? Or should Deni succumb to the drifter’s wanderlust, like one of the characters from the Steinbeck and Faulkner novels he admires?

This schism colors the passages he recently read at an event in Minneapolis (both of which you can watch below). The first focuses on Deni’s budding interest in literature and foreshadows reading as a consistent point of tension with his father. It’s pulled from the book’s opening chapter, “Daredevils and Invisible Friends,” which you can read in full here. In the second passage, he begins to piece together elements of his father’s mysterious, bank-robbing past—a history that thrills Deni as much as it vexes him.

Deni Béchard is also the author of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize-winning Vandal Love, a complex debut novel that charts the wanderings of a displaced Quebecois family across the continent. Doubling as both a road-trip story and a reflection on the untold diaspora of Canadian Franco-Americans, Vandal Love is not only a thrilling read, but a testament to a hardscrabble people nearly forgotten by history.

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