Book Review: Gibsons author’s second novel redeems “lovable loser”

“Bernard Kirby, a loveable loser with a passion for video games and classic films, moves back into his parents’ home following the breakup of his unlikely marriage to Stephanie Hansen.” 

That’s the way Gibsons author Mark Cameron describes the premise of his second novel, 17 Weddings. The book follows his well-received 2015 debut, Goodnight Sunshine, which has scored an impressive 4.5 rating on the major book review website, 

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The two books share Cameron’s polished and buoyant writing style but are quite different stories. Goodnight Sunshine is an adventure set largely in South America, while 17 Weddings is a love-gone-bad tragi-comedy based in North Burnaby. But both feature male protagonists who face inner crises with the help of friends or family, and ultimately, their own good nature. 

Cameron, a former software entrepreneur who has lived on the Sunshine Coast since 2004, admits that the “lovable loser” character of Bernard Kirby in 17 Weddings arose in his imagination like a foreign object. 

“I don’t know how he was born; I don’t understand it,” Cameron said in a recent interview. “I sat down and started to type and this guy came out of me, but he’s so not-me. He’s almost the anti-me. The minute I had Bernard in my head, I just had to unleash him and see what trouble he could get into.” 

The trouble Bernard gets into, and the lesson he seeks to learn, are all about emotional relationship, which he still mangles like a teenager. But there’s also no doubt that, emotionally, he has been handed a very raw deal: Imagine marrying the love of your life, who then leaves you to hook up with your best friend. 

Bernard takes on the mission of trying to derail the new pair’s wedding plans and win her back, all while he tries to figure out what went wrong with their marriage in the first place. He arms himself with new-found zeal and, literally, a spreadsheet. He has been to 17 weddings in his life and he wants to map out what eventually went right, or wrong, over the years in each of those marriages, and why. He is convinced there must be a formula to long-lasting love. 

The story progresses in alternating chapters from two points of view, Bernard’s and that of his friend, Arnie (not the same “friend” who stole Bernard’s wife). Cameron found Bernard such a quirky handful that he knew he – and his readers – would need some relief. 

“I thought, ‘I’m going to get tired of this guy in a hurry. I can’t spend the whole book with just him.’ So, that’s why I created the second character, Arnie, for another perspective,” Cameron said. “I think we all have a little Bernard in us, just hopefully not too much.” 

Can Bernard bring his better nature to the fore, find the secret of lasting love, and finagle it to win Stephanie back? Read on. 

17 Weddings will be released Nov. 26 and is now available for presales online and through Catch Our Drift Productions.

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