Bill Richardson,
Bachelor Brothers'
Bed & Breakfast

(Douglas & McIntyre, 1994;
Wyatt/St. Martin's Press, 1997)

Sometimes a friend will recommend a book and I know I'll love it based on the recommender's personality. My wonderful friend Laura not only suggested I read Bill Richardson's Bachelor Brothers' Bed & Breakfast, she gave me a copy as a birthday gift. She has affirmed her exquisite taste, and this slim volume introduced me to myriad characters who also share my love of books.

Richardson's fictional fifty-something fraternal twins, Hector and Virgil, operate Bachelor Brothers' B&B in the home they inherited from their mother, an avant garde and resourceful single mother who is so well drawn through anecdotes that she's a major character in the book. Their establishment, in a peaceful valley, is a haven to bibliophiles, who flock there to devour classics, aged and newly discovered. (If anyone knows of a non-fiction equivalent of this vacation paradise, drop me a line.)

Richardson alternates prosaic commentary from each of the twins with vignettes of visitors opening their souls to the guest book. Amazingly, each of these personalities writes with his or her own unique voice. Virgil peppers his observations and reminiscences with lines of memorized poetry. Hector, a connoisseur of skin care products as well as world literature, writes in a more straightforward style, but his adventuresome spirit shines through.

Through the brothers' reflections, Richardson creates the delightful interactions among the townspeople, both the current influx of lesbian entrepreneurs and the villagers who knew the twins' mother, her unusual history and her foul-mouthed parrot. The tales are vivid and poignant, human and hilarious. The only disappointment is when the stories end.

Best of all, this delicious book recommends other readings, including "Virgil's List of Books for When You're Feeling Low" and "Hector's List of Favourite Authors for the Bath." I'm sure these bachelor brothers' suggestions will prove as riveting as Laura's.

When Bachelor Brothers' Bed & Breakfast was originally published in 1994, it won Canada's Stephen Leacock Award for Humor. If you, like me, somehow missed this wonder all these years, read it now.

[ by Julie Bowerman ]

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