The Antagonist by Lynn Coady

 “You boiled an entire life, an entire human being . . . down into his most basic, boneheaded elements.”

Gordon Rankin Jr., “Rank” to his friends, is a hulking goon, a hockey enforcer, a bouncer, held in awe by all due to his impressive size and presumed criminal tendencies. When Rank discovers one of his oldest and most trusted friends has published a novel turning his most tragic moments into an embarrassing cliché, Rank writes his own story, through a series of rebuttal emails, revealing the man behind the violent reputation.

How does he do this? He joins Facebook – but then freaks out and deletes his account. He joins again, but under a pseudonym, and with no friends. He returns home for the summer to care for his father who is injured in a roofing accident. He takes the daily visits from the parish priest, a reunion with a teenaged social worker, and constant reminders of his long-dead mother and channels them into a long series of unanswered emails to his author friend, all in an attempt to set the record straight – to tell his story.

“It’s like seeing pictures of yourself that you didn’t even know anyone was taking—candid camera—a whole album of worst-moment closed-circuit stills. There you are taking a dump. There you are saying precisely the wrong thing at the wrong time. There you are stepping on someone’s puppy while scratching your crotch.”

Rank’s process is heartbreaking. We have all been misunderstood, though for most of us the results are not so tragic. We all know (or knew) someone like Rank – but how many incorrect assumptions have gone into our image of this person, and how do we correct it? In The Antagonist, Coady brilliantly explores how the expectations of others influence who we are and who we become. A fantastic read, highly recommended.

Hardcover: 352 pages

Publisher: House of Anansi Press (Aug 3 2011)

ISBN-10: 0887842968

ISBN-13: 978-0887842962

* Long-listed for the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize.