Circling identity in Saskatoon Girls

BRADEN HURSH

Michael Cuthbertson self-published his first novel Saskatoon Girls.

Michael Cuthbertson self-published his first novel Saskatoon Girls.

Saskatoon author Michael Cuthbertson’s first novel Saskatoon Girls is a coming-of-age story about growing up and self-identity, taking the reader on a journey through maturity and the search for a perfect partner.

Jake Patterson, the protagonist, walks through early adulthood trying to find the ideal girl. Set largely in Saskatoon and briefly in Nelson, B.C. Saskatoon Girls proves that love cannot be forced and does not necessarily make sense.

“Usually it took me two minutes to fall madly in love with any nice, cute-faced girl I met,” Patterson claims early into the novel. Throughout the book, the main character proves his own words true by dropping head-over-heels five times — and failing in each endeavour.

For Saskatoon readers, the setting of the novel can be quite humorous as Cuthbertson substitutes the real names of bars, restaurants and stores the main character frequents for fictional ones.

Watching bands play at “Hermano’s Pub,” buying drugs in the three-level bar called “Bianca’s” on Broadway and working at a massive two-level bookstore on Eighth Street called “Pennworthy’s Bookstore” strongly resemble Amigo’s, Lydia’s, and McNally Robinson in Saskatoon. I even attended the same Mother Mother concert in 2011 at The Odeon as the main character and bartend at the same Irish pub he drank at beforehand.

It’s safe to say that “Jake Patterson” is a pseudonym for the author, Cuthbertson. Being both the author and main character of a story is an interesting challenge as the narration can become far too focused at times on the author himself.

The main character, who narrates in the first-person, is honest with both himself and the reader regarding what he truly thinks and desires in a partner. The main character’s “dream girl” is described in the smallest detail –– whether it’s personality, attitude, appearance, style, bra-size or simply “tapability.” The fact that the “dream girl” cannot exist does not seem to creep into the narrator’s thoughts.

The problems faced by Jake Patterson in Saskatoon Girls are entirely of his own making: getting kicked out of his house due to drug abuse, losing a great woman by cheating on her, falling in love with any girl who is nice to him and trying to live a life based on 1960s hippy ideals that lead him right back to his parent’s basement.

Nearly every page of the novel includes either “I smoked a joint,” “I smoked another cigarette” or “then I got loaded.” It is incredibly difficult to sympathize with a character of such extreme privilege that continuously screws himself over. If this is meant to be a coming-of-age story than the main character should have actually learned something, but Jake Patterson does not change at all.

Saskatoon Girls was self-published by Cuthbertson and the finished product of the novel is quite physically beautiful, with cover illustrations done by Yonina Rollack.

Self-publishing a novel is an extremely brave endeavour and imaginably there must be extreme difficulties that come along with it. Yet one cannot help but feel that this novel may have been rushed to the press before a final edit, as there are spelling and punctuation errors interspersed throughout the story as a whole.

Perhaps the most obvious error occurs when a female character says, “Miiike, I have a boyfriend,” to the main character. The author’s name is Mike, but the protagonist’s name is supposed to be Jake, which reflects the semi-autobiographical tone of the novel overall.

Saskatoon Girls is a novel about an intelligent university student who continuously repeats the same mistakes. The greatest strength of the novel is undoubtedly the character dialogue, which makes the reader feel like they are sitting in on a real conversation.

The downfall of this story lies in the repetition of similar events that become exhausting at times. Although repetition is arguably common in a life that has become an endless cycle of work, smoke, drink, mope and sleep.


Photo: Andrew Mareschal

  • CleenWord

    By your description Cuthbertson has a real Saskatoon coming of age story; lack of lesson learned included. Sadly enough our University city and the population of it is filled with eternally young. A lot of lost intelligent people and far too much time indoors with a drink in hand “let’s get f*cked up” mentality is one of this town’s notable characteristics.

    It is probably worth the read for any Saskatchewan bred soul.

  • 21st century literacy… Ugh.

    If the writing in this book is as terrible as his writing was for the Sheaf, this “novel” will be better suited to a fireplace than a bookshelf; in fact, judging by how poorly written this article is, I would hazard a guess that Cuthbertson himself wrote it. Unfortunately we live in an age which allows any talentless schmuck to publish his diary; thank goodness for the body of worthy literature that was written before this sad decline. Oh, and Cuthbertson—don’t quit your day job, assuming someone like this “Jake Patterson” could even get one.